CSOs call for stronger action on human rights

Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have urged the government to demonstrate stronger political will by ratifying the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (UNCAT), among other human rights recommendations made by United Nations member states.

The call came during a meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, NANGO, and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights last week to review the government’s progress on implementing UN human rights recommendations.

The Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Tafadzwa Chikumbu, stated that Zimbabwe accepted 168 out of the 264 recommendations received and noted 96.

“Since the last review two and a half years ago, the government has taken some steps towards implementing the recommendations,” Chikumbu said. “This includes establishing an independent complaints mechanism to investigate and hold accountable members of the security services involved in human rights violations.”

Chikumbu highlighted the passage of the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Bill in June 2022 as a positive development. “The Act contains progressive provisions that would deal with complaints against security services in an expeditious manner,” he said.

However, Chikumbu said there is need for further action. “We implore the government to demonstrate stronger political will to implement critical governance reforms,” he said. “This includes guaranteeing free and credible elections, ensuring an independent judiciary, taking steps to implement the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry into the 1 August 2018 shootings, and ratifying the UNCAT.”

Chiedza Mulinga, a specialist at the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, pointed to areas where progress is still needed.

“While there has been commendable progress on issues like child marriages and the death penalty, more can be done for marginalised groups like the LGBTQIA+ community,” Mulinga said. “Their rights, enshrined in the constitution, need to be recognized and acknowledged.”

Malinga stressed the importance of ratifying UNCAT. “Existing laws do not effectively address torture as a standalone offence,” she said. “We urge the government to collaborate with CSOs to implement this recommendation effectively.”

Malinga also criticised laws like the Patriot Act and the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act, which she said restrict the right to peaceful assembly guaranteed by the constitution.

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