BY PRIVELEDGE GUMBODETE/GARY MTHOMBENI
CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) yesterday accused government of lying during a United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting on the country’s human rights situation.
Zimbabwe’s human rights record was reviewed at a meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday — the first time under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Representing government, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and secretary Virginia Mabhiza said significant strides had been made under Mnangagwa to right the country’s rights’ record.
But CSOs under the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said government lied by painting a rosy picture of the prevailing situation in the country.
“…without reading other reports or without knowing the situation in Zimbabwe, you would think that Zimbabwe is a heaven in so far as human rights are concerned. There was a speech about what Zimbabwe is doing, sometimes inaccurately, but there was very little emphasis on what the government has failed to do or has neglected deliberately to do,” Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum director Musa Kika told NewsDay.
“An example was a statement on journalism, which said there is no single journalist in Zimbabwe who has been arrested for practising journalism and we know that’s not true because there are several reports that have been made towards that. We now have the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill, which has been gazetted and is seeking to restrict civic space.
“The government did not even speak about the effects of that Bill. They (Ziyambi and Mabhiza) went on to say that Bill was created after widespread consultations, including the civic society, and we know it’s false. None of us in the civic society was ever consulted, and several other lies, misleading statements that were actually written on that report.”
In recent submissions to the UN Human Rights Council before the UPR meeting, civic society groups accused government of introducing harsh laws to clamp down on their voluntary work.
In a joint statement ahead of the meeting, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe accused government of interfering with their work.
A review cycle is a four-and-half year period within which all the 193 UN member States’ human rights records are reviewed.
The working group convenes three two-week sessions per year, or 14 sessions over the course of an entire cycle.