Zim lawyers call for significant reforms ahead of elections

zlhr_logThe Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) took part in a march in Harare on Thursday to commemorate International Human Rights Day.

The lawyers used the occasion to deliver a petition to several government offices, calling for improved working conditions for the magistrates in the country. They also launched a report on future elections in Zimbabwe. Kumbirai Mafunda, the ZLHR communications officer, said the march was peaceful and the lawyers had a police escort. The lawyers passed by the High Court, the Supreme Court and the Parliament building in order to deliver their petition, ending the march at the Human Rights Tree which they planted in the Harare Gardens some years ago.

Mafunda said the ZLHR also launched a report that compares the laws and practices relating to elections as they were before, during and after the 2008 elections. The goal was to assess what is required to hold free and fair elections in the future in Zimbabwe.

Mafunda explained that the report also looks at the environment that existed at the time for Human Rights Defenders, and compares that with the regional norms and standards for democratic elections set by institutions such as SADC.

The report concludes that there should be a significant emphasis on legislative and institutional reform before any elections are held, said Mafunda.

The report also noted the establishment of the Human Rights Commission and its potential role in monitoring human rights violations and protecting fundamental rights during future elections, he added. He stressed that there should be key changes in institutions such as the police, the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, if there was to be any hope of a free and fair election.

Mafunda told SW Radio Africa that copies of the ZLHR report will soon be available. Meanwhile the Institute for Democratic Alternatives South Africa (Idasa) also launched a report focusing on the targeted sanctions on the regime in Zimbabwe. The report deals with the effects of three possible options around these restrictive measures: maintaining the restrictions: lifting them completely: a gradual removal based on performance in the unity government.

The report concludes that just maintaining the restrictive measures would do nothing to encourage any concessions from ZANU PF and would prolong the current stalemate between the parties. Completely lifting them would be premature, because international donors and businesses do not trust Mugabe and the situation in Zimbabwe.

The third option is seen as the one most likely to gain broad support. The remove of restrictive measures; based on six benchmarks, which include a credible voters roll, an independent electoral commission, media freedom, constitutional reform, a land audit and reform in the security sector.

Both reports launched this week recommend significant reforms in Zimbabwes institutions, ahead of future elections. The pressure on Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF to make these changes is mounting ahead of the elections that they are preparing for in 2011.

Post published in: Politics

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