Rights groups push for peace panel

HARARE - Civil society groups are stepping up pressure on government to set up a commission to investigate long-simmering allegations of human rights abuses and disappearances during the nation’s decades-long political conflict.

State forces and non-State actors alike have been accused of grave abuses, including, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, rape and torture, among others during the years of conflict.

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust (Zimcet), Heal Zimbabwe Trust and Centre for Community Development Zimbabwe said yesterday the country had endured a legacy of violence and were waiting anxiously for President Robert Mugabe to announce a nine-member National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) tasked with promoting national healing, peace and reconciliation in the country.

At least 30 candidates have been interviewed by Parliament’s standing rules and orders committee to sit on the NPRC. At least 16 candidates are still under consideration for final selection by Mugabe.The rights groups warned that time was running out.

Addressing a news conference in Harare yesterday, the rights groups said they were concerned that the life-span of the commission is pegged at 10 years from the “effective date” of the 2013 Constitution.

And realising it is almost three years since the 2013 Constitution “effective date”, there was a race against time for the set up of the commission that is mandated to bring closure to an era of human rights abuses and violations.

The call comes as the country is currently witnessing renewed abductions, cases of politically-motivated intra-party and inter-party violence as political actors start preparing for 2018 elections.

Cases of harassment, intimidation and organised violence and torture also continue to be recorded.

“Cognisant of the fact that Zimbabwe has endured a legacy of violence resulting in loss of life, displacements, enforced disappearances and torture just to mention a few, these have resulted in bitterness, hatred, revengefulness and lack of cohesion in Zimbabwe’s communities,” the civil society groups said in a joint statement.

“It is, therefore, imperative to break the cycle of violence and establish a strong foundation for peace and justice thereby inculcating a culture of respect for human rights in Zimbabwe.”

The Zanu PF government has failed to investigate the accusations, fearing doing so would derail a tenuous peace between ruling politicians and opposition leaders.

Observers say it is possible that a transitional justice process could be established under the NPRC, given the suggestion that the commission is empowered under the new Constitution to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation.

However, it is also the case that such a process may be ill-advised in the absence of both a full commitment by the government to transitional justice and an extensive consultation with the citizens of Zimbabwe.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.