Commission of Inquiry on Zimbabwe begins its work, mindful of the process of dialogue and reconcilia

GENEVA  - The Commission of Inquiry, set up by the Governing Body of the International Labour Office at its 303rd Session (November 2008) to examine complaints concerning the observance by Zimbabwe of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No.87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), held its first session in Geneva from 18-20 February 2009.

It will be recalled that two complaints were submitted under Article 26
of the International Labour Organization Constitution in June 2008: one
by Workers' delegates and the other by Employers' delegates to the
International Labour Conference at its 97th Session.

The Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Governing Body is composed of:

Judge Raymond Ranjeva (Chairperson), former Senior Judge at the
International Court of Justice, and Conciliator at the World Bank
International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes; Professor
Evance Rabban Kalula, Professor of Employment Law and Social Security
and the Director of the Institute of Development and Labour Law of the
University of Cape Town, and Chair of the South African Employment
Conditions Commission; and Dr Bertrand Ramcharan, Member of the
Permanent Court of Arbitration, Commissioner of the International
Commission of Jurists, former Acting UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights and Under-Secretary-General, former Director of the Office of
the Special Representative for the Secretary-General in UNPROFOR, and
former Director in the United Nations Political Department, focusing on
conflicts in Africa.

At its first session, the Commission took a number of decisions
concerning its procedures, methods of work and timetable. It also sent
letters to the Government, the complainants and other interested
parties, seeking additional information concerning the issues raised in
the complaints regarding the situation of freedom of association in the

The Commission took note of the recent inauguration of the Government
of national unity in Zimbabwe and extended its wishes for the success
of the new Government and for the full realization of the Agreement
between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)
and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations, on
resolving the challenges facing Zimbabwe, as signed on 15 September
2008. It expressed the hope that these developments would have a
positive impact on the issues of trade union rights that fall within
the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry. The Commission has written to
the President and Prime Minister of Zimbabwe along these lines and has
shared its sentiments with the leadership of the African Union and SADC.

The Commission hopes to make a visit of goodwill and initial contacts to Zimbabwe at the beginning of April.

The Commission will reconvene for a second session later in April, when
it will undertake visits to the region, and hold formal hearings in
both the region and in Geneva. The Commission's plan includes a longer
visit to Zimbabwe so as to be able to obtain the fullest understanding
of the reality of the situation concerning the observance of the
freedom of association Conventions in the country in the context of
efforts to take forward the process of dialogue and national

There have been eleven Commissions of Inquiry previously established by
the Organization. Such Commissions are the highest level of the ILO
supervisory mechanisms.

The Commission, while working in the judicial spirit that characterises
ILO Commissions of Inquiry, at the same time is desirous of
contributing to the process of reconciliation and healing in Zimbabwe
on the basis of African and international standards on labour relations
and human rights.

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