African NGOs adopt resolutions on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe

ngo_africanThe Forum for the participation of NGOs at the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) on 9 November 2009 agreed to adopt a resolution on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe as a whole.

The resolution was made especially in light of the ongoing human rights violations in the country and in light of commitments made in the GPA and in the 2009 SADC Summit Communiqu on Zimbabwe whose resolutions were held to be binding on Zimbabwe by the SADC Organ Troika in October 2009.

Following deliberations and consensus by the four-member Zimbabwean NGO delegation from MISA-Zimbabwe, ZLHR, Zimbabwe NGO Forum and MMPZ, the resolution was submitted for deliberation by the NGOs at the forum on 9 November 2009 and was adopted to be a part of the final communiqu to be presented at the ACHPR session by Hannah Foster, the Executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS). The ACHPR session starts on the 11 November and ends on 25 November2009.

Importantly also was the adoption by the forum of resolutions on the violations of the right to freedom of expression in Zimbabwe following deliberations in the special interest group on freedom of expression.

The thematic group on freedom of expression was chaired by MISA-Zimbabwe with other members of the group coming from Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gambia and a member from MMPZ. Whilst a number of issues were advanced for adoption by the group as pertinent issues worth of the commissions attention, such as the unresolved disappearance of a Gambian Journalist Ebrimah Manneh since 2006, the attacks and persecution of the media in Tanzania as presented by MISA and the existence of repressive media legislation in all the countries represented. The forum agreed to adopt a resolution on the violation of the right of freedom of expression and other media freedoms in Zimbabwe following the presentation of the media situation in Zimbabwe by the MISA representative.

The resolution was a specific call on the commission to act on the resolution made during the previous ACHPR session on Zimbabwe to send the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression as a matter of urgency on a fact-finding and investigative mission to Zimbabwe regarding violations of the right to freedom of expression and especially to pursue the following amongst other important issues:

– The arrests and prosecution of journalists and human rights defenders for exercising the right to freedom of expression.

– Delay in freeing media space for a diverse and pluralistic media.

– The repressive laws and institutions hindering the exercise and enjoyment of this right in Zimbabwe.

Part of the resolutions was also a call for the commission to strongly urge the coalition government of Zimbabwe to implement the Commissions 4 June 2009 ruling that it should repeal 79 and 80 of AIPPA, which remains inconsistent with the provisions of the African Charter, as well as urge them to comply with the outcome of the commissions 2002 fact-finding mission.

The Commission is also urged through the same resolution, to put pressure on all countries to repeal all laws that criminalize the exercise of freedom of expression as in Zimbabwe, Gambia, Sierra-Leone and Tanzania and also urge them to put in place legislation that enhance the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression such as freedom of Information laws, Sierra-Leone being an example.

It remains to be seen whether the commission will agree to adopt these resolutions but meanwhile, more lobbying especially of the special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression Pantsy Tlakula and Reine Alapini-Gansou, the special Rapporteur on human rights defenders is pertinent to ensure that these are finally adopted by the commission, thus keeping these issues on the agenda of the commission.


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