Govt can’t gloss over tainted human rights record

Zimbabwe yesterday appeared for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights in Geneva, Switzerland, where its record was put in the spotlight.

Source: Govt can’t gloss over tainted human rights record – NewsDay Zimbabwe November 3, 2016

Comment: NewsDay Editor

The matters raised yesterday were not new, but Zimbabwe seems unwilling to implement some of the issues it agreed to at international forums.

Freedoms of expression and association, which we have always harped on, are still not being respected in spite of them being guaranteed by the Constitution.

While the country can beat its chest claiming criminal defamation was struck off the Constitution, this was not voluntary action, but was forced on the authorities by several Constitutional Court challenges.

The government has for long been advised to repeal the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), but they have so far refused to do so and by so doing tainted the country’s already chequered human rights record.

As it is, several journalists have been charged for publishing falsehoods likely to either endanger the State’s defence or economic interests, a charge that seems to be the successor to criminal defamation laws, which the government was forced to strike down by the courts.

Thus, the government may seem to concede on one hand, but stealthily reintroduces equally draconian legislation on the other.

If the government is serious about its human rights record, then it ought to be sincere, engage civil society and repeal all draconian laws, as piecemeal solutions are not enough.

Then there is the issue of the missing activist, Itai Dzamara, which should be a scar on the conscience of everyone in government, but surprisingly it does not seem as if this is the case.

Dzamara has been missing for just under two years and the authorities should be hard pressed to find him, but there seems to be a lackadaisical approach from the government and security arms.

How does Zimbabwe expect to be taken seriously if an anti-government activist disappears with no trace for this long and the law enforcement agents seem to ignore court orders on finding him?

The State has a duty to protect the lives and security of all its citizens, but in the Dzamara case they have been found wanting in this regard and they do not seem bothered at all.

Zimbabwe’s human rights record is in abysmal at the moment and we hope that by subjecting itself to the UPR, Zimbabwe is committed to righting this self-evident wrong.

If Zimbabwe is not committed to improving its human rights record, then there is absolutely no point in attending UPRs in future, as they are a waste of time.