BILL WATCH 27/2012: Parliament to approve two important international agreements

Bill Watch 27/2012 of 18th June [Palermo Protocol and African Charter on Democracy, Elections & Governance]

BILL WATCH 27/2012

[18th June 2012]

Both Houses of Parliament will meet again on Tuesday 19th June

The Parliamentary agenda for this week includes motions to approve two important international agreements.

Palermo Protocol

United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children

MDC-T Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makoni has put on the agenda of both Houses a motion seeking approval of Zimbabwe’s accession to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. It is a Protocol to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime. This convention and its supplementary Protocols [the others deal with Smuggling of Migrants and Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms] were opened for signature by UN member states in December 2000 in Palermo, Italy.

The Protocol came into force on 25th December 2003 after ratification, acceptance, approval or accession by forty countries. The current position is that 149 countries have become States parties. 39 of 54 African countries are States parties, including 12 of the 15 SADC countries. All our bordering countries – South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana – are States parties .

The only SADC countries that are not States parties are Zimbabwe, Angola and Swaziland. As cross-border trafficking is taking place in the region, having Zimbabwe as a non-party has hampered regional efforts to stop trafficking. Because Zimbabwe did not sign the protocol when it was open for signature, the procedure for becoming a State party is by accession. This will be achieved by lodging an instrument of accession, signed by the President, with the UN Secretary-General after the Protocol has been approved by Parliament.

Although the region does have a problem of trafficking across borders, it is also important to note that the definition of trafficking includes enforced or coerced exploitation of persons for purposes of prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour and similar practices even if it takes place within a country, a town, a rural area, a community or even a family. Until mechanisms are in place for data collection it is difficult to assess the problem, either cross-border or within the country, but it is thought that, in the present economic conditions and the concomitant movements of people, it is extensive.

The Minister is to be congratulated on responding to lobbying for this Protocol to be acceded to. Accession will lay an obligation on the country, among other duties, to:

• ensure that suitable legislation is put in place to prevent and punish trafficking in persons

• implement the legislation

• collect data

• cooperate across borders with other States parties.

It is hoped that Parliamentarians will support the Minister’s motion and follow this up by making a concerted effort to see that the necessary legislation is put in place and other mechanisms set up, so that these obligations are met quickly. When opening the present session in September 2011, President Mugabe said that Parliament would be asked to approve Zimbabwe’s accession and that Government intended to “domesticate” the Protocol by presenting a Bill to incorporate its provisions into Zimbabwean law. But to effectively combat trafficking in persons sufficient budgetary provision must also be made.

Too often International Instruments are signed and ratified or acceded to without the necessary follow-up being done. Perhaps the Senate’s Human Rights Thematic Committee and the House of Assembly’s Portfolio Committees on Women, Youth, Gender And Community Development and Health and Child Welfare could take it on themselves to monitor, once Zimbabwe has acceded to the Protocol, that the Government follows through by ensuring legislation is passed and budget allocations are made to fulfil obligations under the Protocol.

For details of the duties of States parties, and for key provisions considered necessary in an anti-trafficking Act, Parliamentarians are referred to the Parliamentary Briefing Paper produced by Veritas’ Director and printed by Frederick Ebert Stiftung [FES] which was distributed to all Parliamentarians in March last year. The Palermo Protocol is available on the UN website or from [email protected]

African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance

In the Senate last week, MDC-T Senator Marava introduced a motion expressing dismay that Zimbabwe has still not signed and ratified the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which was adopted by the AU in Addis Ababa on 30th January 2007, and calling on the Government to expeditiously sign and ratify the Charter. The Charter came into force for States parties on 15th February this year, when the necessary numbers of States had ratified or acceded to it.

Debate on the motion was adjourned to enable senators to read the Charter, which Parliament undertook to provide them with.

In the House, a motion on the agenda, to be introduced by Hon Chitando [MDC-T] and Hon Rutsvara [MDC-T], notes there has been peaceful transition in some African countries, but contrasts this with violent transition in others, and goes on to cite the context of Zimbabwe holding elections within a year and states that “violent manifestations are already emerging” and that there is “a need to ensure a peaceful post-election transition in Zimbabwe”. Finally, the motion calls on the Government to put in place the necessary mechanisms for peaceful transition and urges SADC and AU to ensure that member states subscribe to the ethos of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

The Charter recognises the link between democracy, elections and good governance and establishes a code of international law with respect to issues of democracy, human rights and conduct of transparent, free and fair lections. Throughout, it emphasises the rule of law and constitutionalism. About elections it obligates States parties, among other things, to ensure:

• an independent and impartial national electoral commission

• fair and equitable access to State-controlled media by contestants

• a binding code of ethics for contestants

• an AU exploratory mission prior to elections to ensure necessary conditions and a conducive environment for transparent, free and fair elections

• free access to information and movement for AU observers during elections .

The Charter also lays down obligations for an independent judiciary, strengthening civilian control of armed forces, conducive conditions for civil society, and legislative and policy frameworks to establish and strengthen a culture of democracy and peace.

Everything in the Charter is in accordance with principles being professed by all political parties. On elections, it is in harmony with the SADC Election Guidelines. It is hoped that members of both Houses, whichever party they support, will pass these motions for accession to the Charter and prove their party principles are more than just talk.

The Charter – formulated by African states – would also form a good background against which to read the draft of the new constitution. It is available on the AU website or from [email protected] For those interested in comparing it with the SADC Election Guidelines, these are also available from [email protected] or on the SADC website.

Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *