Get Human Rights Commission working, urges visiting UN rep

The visiting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has urged the government to operationalise the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, after a closed door meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at his party offices in Harare.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.

The commission, regarded as a crucial tool to arrest human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, is not yet operational despite the commissioners being sworn in in 2010.

There are disagreements among the two MDC parties led by PM Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube as well as Zanu (PF), on the mandate and scope of the commission.

The commission is a constitutional requirement which came into effect in

2009 after the 19th amendment of the current constitution which is set to be replaced by another supreme law if a draft that a parliamentary committee is working on is approved in a referendum.

Pillay said the commission was crucial, especially as Zimbabwe was gunning for general elections whose dates are yet to be agreed and announced.

"In particular, I raised with him (PM Tsvangirai) issues relating to progress on the establishment of the Zimbabwean Human Rights Commission.

This commission is very important and it is needed to play a role during the elections.

"I do appreciate the Prime Minister's interest in addressing that particular issue as he also shares the view that this important commission should begin functioning," she said.

Pillay met PM Tsvangirai in a closed door meeting which she described as constructive.

"We had a very good meeting. It was constructive and he raised many concerns from a human rights point of view, such as the recurrence of the violence that occurred during the last elections and what steps are being taken to protect ordinary people against such violence,"

Pillay said.

In 2008, hundreds of people died in political violence that was blamed on Zanu PF.

Pillay hailed the PM, saying he "was very firm and forthright'' and ''convinced me of his commitment towards protecting human rights", adding that his goal was to ensure the holding of successful elections.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe formed a power-sharing government in 2009 to mend an inflation-ravaged economy and avoid a political meltdown after a bloody presidential run-off election that left more than 200 Tsvangirai supporters dead.

While political violence has eased over the past two years, civic groups criticise President Robert Mugabe's Zanu (PF) party, which controls state security, of failing to stem human right abuses.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said they discussed a number of issues.

"I must say that we raised a number of issues. We explained the situation in the country before the formation of the GNU (Government of National Unity), during the GNU, during elections and some of the human rights abuses that have taken place," he said.

He said there had been some progress in meeting human rights requirements since the formation of the coalition government and, regarding violations, he said they were ''addressing them and we hope that the next election will be free and fair and legitimate".

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