Govt must advance human rights in 2014—Advocacy forum

The government of Zimbabwe must adopt a clear cut plan for human rights reforms in 2014 that it should match with political will, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said in a statement today.

“Government must set out a clear, transparent and verifiable action plan towards human rights reforms, coupled by political will,” urged the forum that also called for national dialogue on human rights.

According to the organisation, the plan to boost observance of human rights must include aligning all laws with the new constitution that the country established after a referendum in March last year.

Currently, there is a raft of laws that need to be revisited to ensure they are consistent with the new constitution, with experts saying failure to do that might result in government departments operating illegally.

In addition, the forum said the State must “improve the operating environment for human rights defenders”—some of whom were last year arrested on what critics said were baseless charges—ensure that security departments operate professionally and institute electoral reforms by ratifying the International Convention against Torture and other cruel or degrading forms of treatment.

The human rights grouping also called on government to “adopt a rights based approach to the economy in order to advance the national objectives of the constitution based on the concept of progressive realisation of all economic and social rights”.

It urged the international community to support measures that would be adopted to promote greater respect for human rights.

“They (international community) should explore creative ways to work collaboratively with government, opposition MPs, civil society and the region” to promote local human rights, said the NGO.

The forum warned the international community against disengaging from diplomatic overtures with the government and recommended a multi-stakeholder approach to discuss social, economic and political issues where “the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans should be the overriding factor”.

Harare, however, recently announced that it was disbanding the three member diplomatic team formed during the life of the coalition government of 2009 to 2013 to mend ties with the EU, with critics suggesting that the committee should have been reconstituted.

The human rights watchdog said the opposition, which it described as suffering a “defeatist mentality” must rejuvenate itself and “continue to convince the Zimbabweans that they can still form the next government.”

“At the moment, the opposition is still in a defeatist mentality. That does not bode well for the advancement of democracy. Opposition politics should be much more about moving with times and re-adjusting to the reality and doing some strategic-fit tests that would give them the merits of your new argument as an opposition platform,” said the forum.

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