ZLHR statement in commemoration of Africa human rights day

ON the occasion of Africa Human Rights Day on 21 October, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) stands in solidarity with human rights defenders who are languishing in detention in Tanzania and calls upon African governments to foster a culture of respect for human rights on the continent.

Commemorated annually on 21 October, Africa Human Rights Day, which is set aside by the African Union, is a continental enunciation of human rights to reflect upon the entry into force in 1986 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (“the African Charter”).

As we commemorate Africa Human Rights Day, ZLHR remembers and honours all those who laid down their lives fighting for the emancipation of the oppressed majority on the continent and in Zimbabwe to realise the inherent dignity of each and every African and Zimbabwean citizen.

However, ZLHR is perturbed by the insincerity and the lack of the commitment by African leaders to respect, promote and protect human rights on the continent, which reached a new low on the eve of Africa Human Rights Day as Tanzanian authorities detained 13 human rights defenders (HRDs) including some lawyers who were attending a meeting in the capital Dar es Salaam. Although the 13 were initially released, they were re-arrested by police on 20 October 2017. Media reports say Dar es Salaam police head Lazaro Mambosasa told journalists during a media briefing that the 13 people were arrested and detained for allegedly promoting homosexuality.

The arrest and detention of the human rights defenders is a shameful attempt to stifle fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and rights such as freedom of expression, assembly association guaranteed in the Tanzanian Constitution and is an abuse of laws by the Tanzanian authorities.

More worrying to ZLHR is the arrest and detention of lawyers, which we consider to be a concerted effort to prevent legal practitioners from exercising their legitimate rights to represent their clients without any interference or hindrance. Such association of lawyers with the causes of their clients is deplorable.

In Zimbabwe, ZLHR, whose mandate is to foster a culture of human rights and respect for the rule of law in Zimbabwe and throughout the region is gravely concerned by the erosion and restriction in the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and rights despite the adoption of a new Constitution four years ago.

Citizens continue to be seized with blatant violations of social and economic rights with State actors at the forefront of fuelling violations of the right to shelter and the right to work.

With many Zimbabweans now resorting to informal trading as a source of livelihood, this occupation has been beset with numerous challenges regarding regulation.

ZLHR is worried by the brutality faced by informal traders in urban areas and the arbitrary deprivation of property.

ZLHR reiterates the need for the government to reflect on its shortcomings in relation to adherence to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its obligations to implement recommendations from the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), which is a body of African specialists in human rights chosen by African governments themselves.

With elections set for 2018, ZLHR is worried that the government continues to procrastinate in implementing recommendations of the African Union organs such as the ACHPR, which in 2013 delivered a landmark ruling directing the government to allow its citizens in the diaspora to vote in national elections.

This urgently calls for the government to ensure that the right to vote for all citizens is upheld, speed up electoral reforms and the creation of a conducive electoral environment that guarantees the respect and enjoyment of universal suffrage and fundamental freedoms.

Therefore, ZLHR calls upon the government to;

• Fulfill obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;

• Speed up the process of harmonising laws with the Constitution and regional and international human rights instruments.

• Ratify, domesticate and implement the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance (The Charter) ahead of the 2018 elections.

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