Govt fails Human Rights test

The government has not taken any serious steps to criminalise torture. The government has failed a human rights appraisal conducted by 27 local and influential civil society organisations (CSO)s, this is the “verdict” of a document entitled the “Advocacy Charter” summing up in detail the human rights track record of the country's coalition government.

The government has not taken any serious steps to criminalise torture.
The government has not taken any serious steps to criminalise torture.

The CSOs, including the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said the coalition government had failed to implement its own declared objectives on key issues like human rights, torture, freedom of expression and assembly, relations with labour and trade unions’ other commitments.

According to the Advocacy Charter, which was prepared by local civil society organisations in relation to the government’s National Report, Zimbabwe has not ratified all the outstanding human rights treaties and their Optional Protocols such as the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Cruel or Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearances.

The government has also not ratified the Optional Protocols to Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic Social Cultural Rights and the Convention Rights of the Child.

No frameworks

The CSOs noted that although the government had created commissions on human rights, no measures were put in place to ensure that the legislative framework for the independent commissions complied with the international norms and standards.

The civil society organisations criticised the government for failing to adhere to the recommendations of the United Nations Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Human Settlement, to ensure that victims of the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina have access to housing.

Although the Zimbabwean Constitution guarantees freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, the CSOs contended that the government had not taken any serious steps to criminalise torture in all of its laws and fully cooperate with the United Nations thematic mechanisms on torture.

In their three page assessment forming the Advocacy Charter, the CSOs observed that the Zimbabwe government’s National Report is silent on arbitrary arrests and detention. They demanded to be upraised of the measures that the government is taking to prevent the arbitrary arrest and detention of citizens, in particular Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and members of Civil Society Organisations during peaceful demonstrations.

Diaspora disenfranchised

With regard to elections, the CSOs observed that the government has, in recent elections, disenfranchised several Zimbabweans living outside the country and people living with disabilities while the airwaves continue to be closed to independent broadcasters.

Zimbabwean CSOs also noted that the government had done very little to reduce overcrowding in prisons and improve access to adequate health services for all inmates.

Of concern to the CSOs was the government’s lethargic attempt to facilitate free access to primary education to satisfy the Millennium Development Goals and to ensure the provision of quality education.

The CSOs recommended the incorporation of all social, economic and cultural rights in the national laws and collaboration with United Nations agencies and other stakeholders to fully implement the Millennium Development Goals on Access to Education, Health and other Social and Economic rights.

As part of their recommendations, the CSOs urged the government to criminalise torture in all its national laws and policies and to consider creating an independent civilian oversight body for the police and other state security operatives.

Hybrid electoral system

With regard to elections, the government was implored to adopt a hybrid electoral system, reform institutions that play a role in elections, develop and implement an Electoral Code of Conduct that is legally enforceable in order to promote free and fair elections and establish a permanent independent Electoral Court.

In order to ensure citizens’ rights to a fair trial and access to justice in the country’s legal system, the CSOs urged the government to consider creating an independent prosecuting authority according to the UN guidelines and fully implement the right to fair trial for all citizens.

Zimbabwe’s compliance with its international obligations is scheduled to be scrutinised by the global community of nations on Monday October 10, 2011.

Post published in: Politics

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