Rights defenders urge Commission to act on abuses

via Rights defenders urge Commission to act on abuses | SW Radio Africa by Nomalanga Moyo  December 17, 2013 

Scores of activists marched through the streets of Harare on Tuesday to commemorate International Human Rights Day.

Last week, rights watchdog Amnesty International said the country’s human rights record remains poor despite a new bill of rights enshrined in the new constitution.

“So the march was about recognising the need to respect and protect human rights and to remind each other that these rights are supposed to be enjoyed by everyone and promoted by all,” Dzimbahwe Chimbga, of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said.

The march was co-organised by civil society groups and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, a body tasked with investigating abuses in the country.

However since its formation, civil society groups have criticised the rights body over its ineffectiveness in the face of political persecution of rights defenders and opposition party supporters.

Chimbga said human rights defenders remain concerned about the pace at which the rights body is moving to meet its obligations. See statement here.

“For us this was also an opportunity to tell the Commission that the body needs to go beyond just organising marches and talking about things, it is time for action. We need to see improvement in the human rights situation in the country and for state agencies to not only pronounce but take the lead in protecting human rights,” Chimbga added.

Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been expected to speak at the event, did not make it due to “other commitments” and sent his deputy instead.

SW Radio Africa correspondent Simon Muchemwa said it would have been ironical for Mnangagwa to officiate at such an event.

Muchemwa said: “Of course the organisers could not have avoided inviting him as he is the justice minister but Mnangagwa has an appalling human rights record.

“He presided over the Gukurahundi atrocities in the 1980s where thousands of civilians were murdered by the government. In this year’s elections Mnangagwa has also been fingered in the harassment and persecution of thousands of MDC supporters in the Midlands.

“Mnangagwa is power hungry and ambitious and some within ZANU PF believe that he was involved in the murder of former army general Solomon Mujuru. Given all these human rights controversies, he wouldn’t have been the best guest speaker,” Muchemwa added.

International Human Rights Day is commemorated every year on December 10th in respect of the United Nation’s 1948 Declaration of Human Rights.