Civil society organisations from all over the world confronted President Mugabe’s government last Thursday at the United Nations Human Rights Council and strongly objected to Zimbabwe’s human rights report which glossed over human rights issues.
BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
The organisations criticised statements issued by some member states as mere praise worship rather than real scrutiny of Zimbabwe’s human rights record.
Speaking after Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s report, United Nations Watch (UN Watch) executive director Hillel Neuer lambasted the UN member states for ignoring the torture and abduction of innocent people in Zimbabwe.
“Mr. President, instead of human rights scrutiny, no less than 70 percent of the country statements in this report are for praise for Zimbabwe’s government. And yet the truth is opposite,” said Neuer in a 90 second address to the Council.
“The truth is that victims of human rights abuses object to the adoption of this report,” Neuer added, “They object because the Mugabe government targets members of opposition and human rights activists with abduction, arrest, torture, abuse and harassment.”
Neuer said tthe government was notorious in its partisan application of the law, restriction of freedoms of expression, press, assembly, association and movement.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum rebuked the government for its hypocrisy of pretending to be committed to the universal periodic review and presenting cosmetic reports.
“The greatest sign of commitment by the government is not merely attending UPR sessions and accepting recommendations but a positive change in the human rights environment,” said Blessing Gorejena who read the statement on behalf of the Forum and Civicus.
She said the situation on the ground remained dire with state authorities showing disregard for basic freedoms, particularly the freedoms of assembly and expression.
Gorejena called on the government to investigate the whereabouts of Itai Dzamara who was abducted on 9 March 2015.
The call was echoed by ZimRights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch who also addressed the Council.
ZimRights’ director Okay Machisa said there has not been any genuine efforts by the government in investigating the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, despite government reporting that it was working closely with the Dzamara family and his lawyers.
Machisa also lambasted the government for celebrating the inauguration of a new Constitution at the council while back home the government was shredding the same charter through Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 1 which he said was going to take away safeguards for an independent judiciary.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) bemoaned the targeting of human rights defenders by the state. Belinda Chinowawa who spoke on behalf of ZLHR said that the Cyber Crime Bill if passed would further curtail freedom of expression and protection of privacy.
The civil society statements were a blow to the government’s attempt to paint a positive picture of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.
While the government reported in its report to the council that over 30 000 police officers had been trained in human rights, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum’s State of Human Rights Report 2016 – 2017 says of all the cases of human rights violations received during the period, 60% of the violations were committed by the police.
From January 2016 to November 2017, 333 cases of torture were received while 682 cases of arbitrary arrest were documented. 854 cases of harassment and intimidation were recorded.
Speaking at a side meeting organised by the Forum and Civicus in Geneva before the adoption of the Zimbabwe Report, Dzikamai Bere, a researcher at the Forum said the figures fly in the face of the government of Zimbabwe’s attempt to pretend that all is well.
“The government of Zimbabwe must be ashamed of its hypocrisy and must be reminded that the UPR is not a PR event but a real process meant to change the human rights situation on the ground in Zimbabwe,” he said.