Zimbabwe's human rights report appalling

Zimbabwe's human rights report appalling

Zimbabwe yesterday presented its Human Rights report at the ongoing UN Human Rights Council's 12th session of the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva. The report prepared by the Ministry of Justice and Legal affairs and presented by Patrick Chinamasa (pictured) paints a rosy picture of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and is starkly different from what is taking place in Zimbabwe. Torture, harassment and politically motivated prosecutions of human rights defenders and perceived opponents have persisted, while villagers in many parts of the country have suffered ceaseless intimidation by supporters of the former ruling party, ZANU PF.

The most blatant imprecision contained in the report is the issue of state sponsored violence which the report states as false. Chinamasa claims that the judiciary is independent, the army and police are non-partisan. Instead the reality on the ground is the human rights situation is worsening day by day at the hands of state security agents following an escalation of threats, intimidation and harassment against people perceived to be against Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party. Once again state security agents continue to be at the forefront of perpetrating violence, intimidation and torture on innocent civilians.

The report also claims that Zimbabwe's Constitution guarantees the protection against inhuman and degrading treatment and that the country has incorporated the rights to a fair trial and access to justice in the legal system. However, on the ground, there are pending cases of innocent political activists and human rights defenders on trumped up charges as a result of delays in court hearings and judicial abuse.

Chinamasa further highlighted that an independent Zimbabwe Media Commission has been set up to ensure furtherance of human rights. He also cited that the government opened up communication platforms through the licensing of commercial radio broadcasting services and satellite-based subscription services. In reality, no independent commercial radio licences have been issued and there has been no movement at all on issuing community radio licences. It's now five months since the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) called for applications for two commercial radio licences out of fifteen applications.

Chinamasa also indicated that the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) Amendment Bill is an adequate tool to regulate political meetings and is reasonably sufficient in a democratic setting to allow for freedom of association. Chinamasa says there are no intentions to amend AIPPA because it is standard the world over and those rights are not absolute but need to be checked in line with national security and public safety concerns. In August this year, Chinamasa caused the premature end to the debate on the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) Amendment Bill in the Senate where he misguided legislators that the matter was being negotiated as part of the Global Political Agreement outstanding issues.

The Coalition calls upon principals of the Global Political Agreement to fulfill their promise to reform state institutions, in a bid to end human rights violations that have continued unabated since the formation of the unity government two and half years in February 2009.

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