Articles

Calls to adopt the Human Rights Commission bill valid

The establishment of independent and democratic bodies is one of the signposts of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Since its consummation in 2009, government has set up the Media Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission as well as the Human Rights Commission to regulate and put in place some checks and balances on different sectors in the country.

Whilst other commissions are active, though questionably it is a great cause for concern that the Human Rights Commission (HRC) remains redundant because its bill has not yet been passed into law. The commission, which was set up in March 2010, still lacks power to investigate and bring cases of human rights violations for prosecution.

The (HRC) consisting of a chairperson and 7 other members appointed by the president according to Section 118(5) of the constitution, is mandated to promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, to monitor, assess, investigate and ensure observance of human rights; and to perform such other functions as may be prescribed in an act of Parliament.

, The Human Rights Commission Bill gazetted in June 2011 is yet to be presented before the House of Assembly and Senate for adoption. If adopted, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Act would empower the commission to investigate people in their individual capacities, State and corporate institutions for human rights abuses.

In a report to the Organ Summit of March 2011, South African President and SADC facilitator, Jacob Zuma expressed his concern over the dormancy of this important commission, saying the absence of enabling legislation was undermining its effectiveness. The delay in passing the Bill is worrying given that cases of politicalviolence and intimidation have already started growing ahead of elections.

By activating the Bill, the Commission will be capacitated to work as a watchdog responsible for monitoring and assessing the promotion and protection of human rights in Zimbabwe. It will also have powers to visit places of detention like prisons and refugee camps to see if there is compliance with the human rights standards. The Commission will not only deal with the civil and political rights violations that have become so widespread in the country, but it will also stand for the protection of people's social and economic rights.

The work of the Commission which is to be independent and objective will be a welcome move as it is expected to deal with continued violations such as torture and arbitrary arrests of journalists and pro- democracy players. It is thus important that the Bill be passed into law, that adequate resources be availed; and that there be no political interference for the Commission so that it can freely and fairly carry out its mandate.

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