Zim human rights situation deteriorates: UK

HARARE - The United Kingdom (UK) has released a report in which it says the human rights situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated on the back of violations by security agents.

In its July 2017 global report titled Human Rights and Democracy the UK  grouped Zimbabwe together with Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Libya, Eritrea, Egypt and Sudan, which it said were rights priority areas in Africa.

The cited human rights abuses in Zimbabwe are illegal demolition of homes, continued violations of property rights, abductions and torture, and politically-motivated sexual violence by State actors.

“An increase in public protest over the summer in response to the political environment and the deteriorating economic situation saw police respond using dogs, tear gas, water cannon and baton charges.”

“The government denied permission for activists and opposition parties to hold rallies but granted similar requests by the ruling party. Reports of intimidation, rape, assisted voting and vote buying primarily by the ruling party marred two by-elections. Partisan distribution of food by government agencies was also reported in seven provinces in October 2016,” it said.

This was in reference to several demonstrations by pro-democracy groups and July 2016 riots which were both crushed by heavily-armed police in Harare and Beitbridge, respectively.

On July 1, last year, the small border town of Beitbridge witnessed riots which were sparked by government’s ill-advised decision to ban the importation of consumer goods mainly from South Africa.

Angry protesters looted shops and set alight a warehouse belonging to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) prompting police to call for re-enforcements from Harare.

On July 4, police, apart from severely assaulting commuter omnibus crews in Mabvuku and Epworth, set dogs on jobless youths who were barricading roads in solidarity with transporters who were complaining over too many roadblocks along their routes.

And on July 6, in one of the most successful strikes ever to be organised in Zimbabwe, thousands of impoverished workers heeded calls by activist clergyman Evan Mawarire to stay-away from work — in a move which saw authorities clashing with jobless youths in poor townships.

The UK report also re-visited promises made by government when Zimbabwe engaged with the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session where it committed to step up efforts to improve prison and police cell conditions and to reconsider its approach to the death penalty.

“At the UPR, the UK welcomed Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution but expressed concern at the slow progress of legislative alignment and called for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to investigate allegations of political violence.

“We will press for delivery on the UN UPR commitments, through the tripartite process (Government of Zimbabwe, UN and NGOs).

“We also reiterated the importance of respect for the right to shelter and property.

“The Government of Zimbabwe accepted our recommendations to accede to the Convention against Torture, and noted our recommendation to align electoral, public order and media laws with the 2013 Constitution before the end of the current Parliament,” the report said.

The UK said it will continue to prioritise human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe in keeping with the country’s status as a human rights priority country.

“The UK funded training on human rights legislation and the constitution for Zimbabwean prosecutors. We worked through the multi-donor Transparency, Responsiveness, Accountability and Citizen Engagement (TRACE) Programme to improve access to justice, media and information freedom and the electoral environment in advance of the 2018 elections.”

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association director, Okay Machisa, urged government to take heed of the report’s concerns.

“Equally, the government must take steps to ensure that the Constitution and its human rights friendly Bill of Rights in Chapter 4 is respected,” said Machisa.

Comments (1)

Human rights have never been a concern to Zanu pf.Its members only realise that human rights are important when they happen to be ejected from Zanu pf and thrown into the cold.One should look at Mutasa and other functionaries who were unceremoniously bundled out of that organisation.

Gen. Spinola - 23 July 2017

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