Rights defenders face terrorisation

HARARE - Human Rights defenders in Zimbabwe continue to face terrorisation amid fears of an election “bloodbath” in the expected 2013 election, an international observatory has reported.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory)  a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) said securities meant to be strengthened by the Government of National Unity are still absent as necessary reforms have not yet been put in place.

The observatory whose mission is to establish a mechanism of systematic alert of international community on cases of harassment and repression of defenders of human rights and fundamental freedoms released the fact finding mission report titled “Ongoing risks for human rights defenders in the context of political deadlock and pre-electoral period.”

“The latter (human rights defenders) is still characterised by acute acts of harassments, intimidation and reprisals, including particularly repeated arbitrary arrests and detentions, judicial harassment and acts of torture and ill-treatment as well as obstacles to the exercise of their right to freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly,” the report read.

Among the human rights defenders who have faced persecution at the hands of the police, according to the report are Abel Chikomo, Farai Maguwu, Jestina Mukoko, Munyaradzi Gwisai and members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza).

The report states that institutions put in place to ensure protection of human rights are weak, while law enforcement and state agents are used by Zanu PF to perpetrate the intimidation.

“Most of the institutions are weak or are deliberately weakened and manipulated for political ends. Some of the institutions that were primarily set up to offer protection end up being the persecutors themselves.”

“Police and security agents appear to be the main violators of the rights of human rights defenders, as they are responsible for their arrest, abduction, harassment, intimidation and even torture or murder.

Despite their duty to carry out their tasks in an impartial and professional way, the evidence on the ground, however, suggests that a number of them have been politicised and play active political roles in stifling the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms of those perceived not to be “politically correct,” states the report.

The report went on to question the independence and impartiality of the prosecuting authorities in Zimbabwe.

The observatory said the current political deadlock compromised any improvement of the political environment.

Those who had personally been victims during the elections, or whose relatives, friends or acquaintances had been subjected to such acts of violence, feared for the worst as perpetrators of violence have not been brought to book.

“The interlocutors feared that in case an election was held in the prevailing atmosphere, a bloodbath was feared. The ‘infrastructure of violence’, comprising youth militias, war veterans, some soldiers, police force, intelligence operatives, Zanu PF local leaders, hitmen and torture bases set up in 2008, has never been dismantled notwithstanding the GNU. It may have declined at some point, but there have been recurring signs of its re-activation since the call for elections.”

The report also noted the intimidation of independent newspapers and journalists.

“The media remain gagged and journalists continue to be forced to exert self-censorship.”

In its recommendation the group called for the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to guarantee the presence and deployment of local and international observers during the next elections in Zimbabwe.

And: “To make every effort to ensure that the military and security sector are not involved in the organisation and management of the next elections in Zimbabwe.” -
Bridget Mananavire

Comments (2)

its a shame.... only in Zimbabwe are rights activists seen as a threat by politicians... Nxaa!

lily - 27 November 2012

International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation against Torture call "for the assistance of the AU, SADC and UN to implement the Global Political Agreement fully and to ensure the presence of local and international observers for the elections next year." Instead of being helpful, they are mudding the water. The GPA called for security sector reforms, for example, but it was then left to the two MDC factions to work out the details what these reforms would be. For the last four years no one has come up with the details; Prime Minister Tsvangirai, the leader of the main MDC faction has been too busy globe-trotting and chasing women to do that. So what reforms exactly does FIDH expect SADC to help implement? If they want to help here, FIDH should be asking PM Tsvangirai to take his duties seriously for once instead of encouraging his reckless behaviour and this wild-goose chase. Unless MDC get their act together as a matter of urgency and draft the reforms and amend the weak Copac draft constitution they have already endorsed; Mugabe will have the draft approved and then there will be nothing to stop him holding elections in with the usual vote rigging and violence. MDC must first come up with the reforms and only then can SADC can help force Mugabe to implement these reforms. SADC cannot force Mugabe to implement reforms that are not there! FIDH mean well but then the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

W Mukori - 28 November 2012

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