'Enforce rights in new Constitution'

HARARE - Government must guarantee all human rights enshrined in the new Constitution, Amnesty International said in a Human Rights Agenda issued as President Robert Mugabe approaches the 100th day of his new term.

In the report, Human Rights Agenda for the New Government — 2013 to 2018, the organisation urges the Zimbabwean government to take significant steps to improve the country’s poor human rights record.

“There is no doubt that the new government will be judged on the basis of its human rights record and ability to improve the living conditions for everyone in the country,” says Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s deputy director for southern Africa.

“The new Constitution offers a golden opportunity for the government to begin to right the wrongs of the past, to deliver justice for its people and to allow freedom of expression. With political will all that is possible.

“We want to see the new government sending a clear signal that it is committed to breaking away from a past where human rights were blatantly violated.”

Amnesty International called on the government to immediately repeal or amend all laws that are not aligned with the new Constitution.

Amnesty International said it was concerned about the new government’s continued harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders — particularly NGO leaders being prosecuted for undertaking their legitimate work, which is guaranteed under international law.

The report also calls for an official moratorium on forced evictions. It urges a review of Operation Garikai, a government programme designed to re-house some of the 700 000 people made homeless by mass forced evictions in 2005 (known as Operation Murambatsvina), with the aim of providing effective remedies to the victims.

Earlier this month, the minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Ignatius Chombo, reportedly ordered the destruction of “illegal structures” in the country as part of what was termed a “clean up.”

“Forced eviction is unconstitutional in Zimbabwe. Section 74 of the Constitution recognises the right to ‘freedom from arbitrary eviction.’ Under international law people facing eviction are entitled to adequate notice, they should be genuinely consulted, be given viable alternative housing and are entitled to compensation,” Kututwa said.

The Human Rights Agenda also calls for an immediate official moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty for all crimes and commuting all death sentences.

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