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expectations for Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission but vigilance
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
October 15, 2012
for Human Rights (ZLHR) welcomes the eventual gazetting of the Zimbabwe
Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) Act after inordinate delays that
have prevented this body from carrying out its critical mandate
since Commissioners were appointed in 2009.
of the Bill
into law allows the ZHRC to finally commence its operations amid
great expectations from Zimbabweans who have patiently waited for
years to realise this long overdue genesis.
At last Zimbabwe
has a constitutional body that is mandated to promote fundamental
rights and freedoms, and to protect the public against abuse of
power and maladministration by the State.
maintains that the powers of the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs
remain too wide, discretionary, and may have the effect of blocking
key investigations and adversely affecting transparency, accountability
and independence of the Commission, the importance of having an
operational Commission to deal with protection of human rights cannot
be over-emphasised, particularly in a society where violations of
fundamental rights and freedoms remain prevalent. Civil society
and the general public must ensure that they continue to scrutinise
the conduct of the Minister so as to ensure his powers are not abused
to the detriment of effective investigation and redress of alleged
ZLHR is also
of the view that the protective mandate of the ZHRC is still not
strong enough and the body's independence is not properly
safeguarded. However, we remain hopeful that the integrity of the
Commissioners will assist in ensuring that they play their part
in guaranteeing that effective action is taken to enforce this protective
mandate without fear or favour in order to build a strong and effective
With a constitutional
referendum and elections on the horizon, and having reference to
historical trends, the existence of a functional mechanism to investigate
and deal with politically-motivated rights violations is extremely
important, especially where such violations tend to worsen in the
run-up to, and following, such national processes. Although the
Act does not specifically address the role of the ZHRC in electoral
processes, despite our submissions to Parliament
in this regard, we will continue to advocate for the inclusion of
this critical institution in national conflict prevention and resolution
the ZHRC to immediately commence its operations and ensure that
a strong, professional secretariat is established to assist in the
implementation of its strategic plan and the fulfillment of its
constitutional mandate. It must ensure visibility throughout the
country, particularly within local communities, down to the ward
and district levels. Its activities and swift professional action
will allow observers and users of its services to assess the institution's
commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in Zimbabwe,
especially where such concepts have been anathema to many state
and non state actors who have embraced a culture of impunity over
the past three decades.
mindful of the emotive issue of outstanding redress for past human
rights excesses prior to the timeline provided to the ZHRC for investigation
of human rights abuses. ZLHR therefore reiterates its call to the
coalition government to urgently establish an independent and credible
mechanism to deal with issues relating to past human rights violations
and atrocities. This independent mechanism must be mandated to deal
with all past human rights violations that have occurred in Zimbabwe,
including the pre-Independence era, as well as the post-Independence
atrocities of Gukurahundi, Operation
Murambatsvina, and electoral-related crimes, amongst others.
ZLHR reiterates that all crimes committed in the past remain crimes,
whether or not a national human rights institution or other mechanism
exists to deal with past human rights violations. Government, political
players and other perpetrators of violations must disabuse themselves
of the notion that the creation of such mechanisms removes responsibility
and punishment for such crimes. It would be foolish to assume that
the despicable crimes committed and documented on a daily basis
for the past three decades can be met with impunity.
the prosecutorial authorities and the judiciary must at all times
bear in mind that they have a constitutional and legal obligation
to respectively investigate and arrest, prosecute, and punish convicted
perpetrators. ZLHR expects these constitutional duties to be carried
out without fear or favour, and we will continue to exercise our
watchdog role in this regard and beyond as we answer to our calling
of fostering a culture of human rights in Zimbabwe.
As the vanguard
for human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, we keenly await meaningful
interactions with the ZHRC and will support its endeavours without
seeking to compromise its independence, impartiality and effectiveness.
We urge all Zimbabweans to do the same, whilst always remaining
vigilant in order to ensure that the ZHRC develops quickly into
a strong, effective and trusted institution that caters for the
needs of all victims, survivors and their families.
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