MPs implored to defend human rights

via MPs implored to defend human rights | The Zimbabwean by Sofia Mapuranga 21.11.13

Parliamentarians should strive to defend and promote citizens’ human rights by amplifying their voices through debate, ZimRights Director, Okay Machis

Speaking on the sidelines of a press conference to announce the organisation’s unveiling of six new categories for the 2013 Zimbabwe Human Rights Awards set to be held in Bulawayo next week, Machisa said: “We recognise the contribution of parliamentary debate regarding human rights issues and we want to recognise parliamentarians who champion and defend the human rights agenda in parliament.

“As an organisation, we want to implore whether those parliamentarians are genuine in bringing these issues to the fore and whether they have the people at heart,” he said.

Machisa said because human rights are enshrined in the constitution, it is important that whenever there is gross violation of human rights by government institutions, citizens, politicians and civil society work hand in glove to defend them.

“Government bodies working towards the promotion and protection of human rights in communities and the country at large should get funding from government,” said Machisa.

Zimbabwe’s new constitution, signed into law on May 22, 2013, prescribes domestic human rights obligations through a Bill of Rights.

The preamble says there is need “to entrench democracy, good, transparent and accountable governance and the rule of law.”

The country’s supreme law reaffirms the need for “commitment to upholding and defending fundamental human rights and freedoms.”

Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations are derived from several international conventions, among them the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Machisa said organisations such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission were failing to execute their duties effectively because of financial constraints.

“ZHRC does not have a secretariat and it is the duty of government to create an enabling and conducive working environment for such organisations to fully execute their mandate.”

Zimrights added the category of Outspoken Member of Parliament to its human rights defenders awards for 2013.