Call for independent complaints body

HARARE - Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has bemoaned the downside that Zimbabweans have nowhere to run to and hold authorities accountable.

This comes after the continuous cycle of impunity of human rights violations owing to the absence of an Independent Complaints Mechanism (IMC) to bring authorities to book.  

An IMC opens up the democratic space allowing the populace to file complaints against government.

While the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Section 210 of the Constitution provides the investigation of complaints against the security services including the police, the defence forces, the State intelligence services and the prisons and correctional service through an independent complaints body, it has not been implemented for the past five years.

 “Implementing section 210 will go a long way towards dismantling impunity and holding perpetrators to account…

“They (security forces) are responsible for preserving life, and yet they are leading in the taking of life, hence the same question comes back to us: Who guards the guards?” Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum stated in a recent report.

Government’s unfortified delay in setting up the body has prejudiced countless victims of violence and human rights abuses failing to hold the State accountable for the atrocities as well as obtaining compensation.

Over the weekend, President Emmerson Mnangagwa came out threatening to clampdown on civic society groups and opposition parties whom he accused of contributing to the violent unrest in the country.

From former president Robert Mugabe’s despotic era, several reports documented absolved violations committed by law enforcement agents and over a dozen years later, similar reports continue to emerge — backed by government.

The August 1, 2018 killings also went as a non-event as no security agent was brought to book.

Civic society organisations (CSOs) last month, also recorded atrocities and gross human rights violations including rape, beatings and abductions committed by security forces with 17 people losing their lives, amid government’s adamant rebuttal of the accusations.

“In the absence of an official mechanism to deal with violations of human rights by security services, civil society is stepping into the gap…

“By not bringing to Parliament, the Independent Complaints Mechanism Bill, government is in breach of section 324 of the Constitution,” Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum added.

Section 324 of the Constitution demands that all constitutional obligations be performed diligently and without delay and the IMC has not seen the daylight since the 2013 Constitution enactment.  

In 2015 Veritas instituted an application in the Constitutional Court calling on the government to gazette a Bill to set up the independent complaints mechanism envisaged by section 210.

The application was only heard in January 2016 before the court hearing was adjourned without delivering a judgment, and nearly three years later Veritas says, it is still waiting for the Court’s decision.

Meanwhile Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is pursuing litigation issuing notices in terms of Section 6 of the State Liabilities Act (Chapter 8:14).