Human Rights Bill now law

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe has finally signed into law the Human Rights Bill which will allow for the investigation of cases of politically-motivated violence albeit starting from 2009.

This means Gukurahundi and 2008 atrocities will be ignored.

The Act, to be gazetted tomorrow, could have an impact on the country’s electoral environment which for decades has been poisoned by violence and selective application of the law.

Recently, Mugabe also signed the Electoral Amendment Act into law, a legislation that is regarded as a stepping stone towards free and fair elections.

“The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Act is due to be gazetted on Friday, October 12 as Act No 2/2012. The President signified his assent on October 2. The Act will come into force immediately,” read a notice from Veritas, a bill watch group.

The law will among other things enable the investigation of human rights violations and also for periodic reports to international bodies such as the United Nations, the African Union and Sadc.

However, there has been some unease with the Act that conveniently ignores the Gukurahundi atrocities of the 1980 after the MDC formations in the unity government buckled to Zanu PF demands.

Civil society organisations estimate that 20 000 people were killed in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces by a North Korean-trained military brigade and there has been outrage that perpetrators of such acts will walk scot free despite the new law.

The new law will also disregard recent cases of political violence such as the 2008 election violence where the MDC claims thousands of its supporters were killed or displaced by Zanu PF sponsored gangs and members of the security sector.

The law also enables the Human Rights Commission to investigate rights abuses.

Hitherto the Human Rights Commission established in 2010 in accordance with the provisions of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) has been a toothless bulldog with no law to back its work.

Irene Petras director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the commission now has a legal basis.

“It is a positive development that the bill is becoming an Act because the Human Rights Commission was appointed a long time ago. Now they have legislative backing and we hope they will start working,” said Petras.

The human rights champion said although the commission could have been given more powers, it is still a positive development that there is now a law to back it.

“We now need to be vigilant and see how the commission executes its mandate,” said Petras.


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