Why Special Rapporteur’s visit is important

Source: Why Special Rapporteur’s visit is important | Sunday Mail (Local News)

Leroy Dzenga
Senior Reporter

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights Ms Alena Douhan will conclude her fact-finding mission in Zimbabwe this week.

Ms Douhan’s ten-day visit, which is a first of its kind in the 21 years that the country has been under sanctions from the West, elicited divergent discourse in the country’s political sphere.

The Government believes the fact-finding mission, which ends on October 28, offers the United Nations and the international community an unadulterated insight into the deleterious effects of the two-decade long embargo.

The Government, through Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, has submitted to the rapporteur its position paper which exposes the full extent of how the embargo is a violation of human rights.

On the other hand, opposition members and sympathisers tried to scandalise her visit, falsely claiming that her office is not recognised by the United Nations.

Preluding her visit, a statement from the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner Human Rights (UNHCR) said the assessment was set to gather first-hand information from which recommendations can be made to the international community.

“The purpose of the mission is to examine, in the spirit of co-operation and dialogue, whether and to what extent the adoption, maintenance or implementation of unilateral sanctions impedes the full realisation of the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, in particular the right of individuals and peoples to development,” the statement read.

Over the last two decades, authorities have expended efforts trying to get the United Nations’ attention on sanctions.

The United Nations General Assembly, for instance, has been used as platform to get the world’s attention on the embargo.

Observers view the UN’s deployment of a sanctions envoy as a possible turning point in getting the world’s attention focused on the sanctions.

Academics believe that Ms Douhan’s visit offers her an opportunity to get close to the people who are bearing the brunt of the sanctions away from the rhetoric perpetuated by the global media.

A public administration expert Dr Tawanda Zinyama,  said the visit was long overdue.

“The visit is important because it gives Alena Douhan an opportunity to listen to Zimbabweans’ experience and insights regarding horrendous illegal and unilateral sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by US, UK and EU,” he said.

Dr Zinyama said her visit and interactions with citizens will help cure the world of the misconception that sanctions are targeted.

“The illegal sanctions have deprived Zimbabweans of enjoyment of their constitutional rights like right to development, education and health.

“Her findings and report will be a critical document for the world to see how the unilateral sanctions have decimated the economy of Zimbabwe,” said Dr Zinyama.

A media scholar and political analyst Professor Charles Pfukwa said the UN has an opportunity to give the Zimbabwean population a voice on the sanctions issue.

“The United Nations wants to find out for themselves the facts on the ground and come up with a detailed analysis.

“This is welcome in that it is an attempt by the UN to be objective in their handling of the sanctions, instead of getting submissions from countries, they can establish their own facts,” said Professor Pfukwa.

He said the powers behind sanctions are losing grip as global powerhouses due to issues such as Brexit and the rise of China.

“I suppose, like most of the United Nations resolutions, they are sometimes ignored because the global powers that hold sway in the UN are known.

“However, for posterity, it has to be clear beyond reasonable doubt that sanctions are hurting ordinary people,” added Professor Pfukwa. Since her appointment in March 2020, Ms Douhan has visited several
countries that are under economic sanctions.

In February this year, she released her report on sanctions imposed on Venezuela.

“Lack of necessary machinery, spare parts, electricity, water, fuel, gas, food and medicine, growing insufficiency of qualified workers many of whom have left the country for better economic opportunities, in particular medical personnel, engineers, teachers, professors, judges and policemen, has enormous impact over all categories of human rights, including the rights to life, to food, to health and to development,” said Ms Douhan in her report.

Her findings are consistent with what the Government and researchers have said about how sanctions have affected Zimbabwe.

Ms Douhan credential are beyond reproach.

She is an International Law Professor at the University of Belarus.

International law expert and public policy researcher advocate Thabani Mnyama, however, warned that the visit, though important, should not lead to complacency among those lobbying for the removal of sanctions.

“The reports by these rapporteurs are important and helpful but are only limited in a way. After their fact-findings they prepare these reports which usually end with conclusions on their mission and recommendations,” said Advocate Mnyama.

He said the efficacy of her findings anchors on the reasonability of the world.

“Because they (UN Special Rapporteurs) are meant to be independent, they make the recommendations to all stakeholders, member states, international community and other parties which are considered actors to the mission.

“These parties are not mandated to implement these recommendations though, loosely put, they are only encouraged to implement them,” he said.

In a perfect world, Advocate Mnyama explained, these reports should lead to policy changes and the intervention of the international community.

“The unilateral sanctions imposed by some states and institutions on Zimbabwe have no basis in international law and they violate the legitimate development rights and interests of Zimbabwe, like how the country has no access to channels of borrowing for developmental purposes, this is something that affects even us citizens as we feel the heat,” he added.

The US and the EU have argued that their sanctions are targeted, but with time, evidence on the ground has shown that their embargos affect ordinary Zimbabweans more.

In 2019, SADC took the initiative to support Zimbabwe and declared October 25 as the region’s day for collective action against the sanctions.

That was considered to be the first step towards getting the international community to pay attention to the country`s pleas.

Ms Douhan’s visit is a sign that the Zimbabwean sanctions story is hurtling towards a crescendo and the world now appears ready to hear the country speak for
itself.

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