GOVERNMENT should investigate the numerous cases of torture to prove its sincerity in implementing the Convention Against Torture and upholding fundamental freedoms in the constitution, human rights lobby groups have demanded.
Following the recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations which government accepted, and citing various cases where citizens were violated in the last two years, the organisations see nothing worth celebrating since the country ratified the convention in 2011.
“The greatest sign of commitment by the government is not merely attending UPR sessions and accepting recommendations,” said Civicus and Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum in a statement.
“The ultimate evidence of commitment is positive change in the human rights environment. We are saddened that despite consistent participation by Zimbabwe in successive UPR sessions, the situation on the ground remains dire with state authorities showing disregard for basic freedoms, particularly the freedoms of assembly and expression.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) weighed in saying government should expedite the alignment of subordinate laws to the constitution to ensure these are not used to justify human rights abuses as has become the norm.
President Robert Mugabe was also encouraged to lead by example through desisting from speeches that undermine the independence of critical institutions such as the judiciary and of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) like he did in 2016.
In the last two years, human rights defenders, civil society activists, government opponents, and street vendors, faced harassment, threats, and arbitrary arrest by the police and state security agents.
Zimbabwe also made international headlines in 2016 after the disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara. He has not been found or heard from since.
“The government has failed to ensure justice and accountability for serious past abuses. The government should immediately provide information on his fate or whereabouts and bring those responsible to justice.
“The government rarely investigates allegations of torture by police or intelligence officers. Acts of torture that HRW has documented include severe beatings that involve victims being punched, kicked, and struck with batons; beatings on the soles of the feet; repeated banging of detainees’ heads against walls; and the shackling of detainees in painful positions.”
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said the move by government to amend the 2013 constitution deals a blow to the independence of judiciary a critical institution in the protection of human rights.
“A strong and independent judiciary is critical to the building of a strong human rights culture in any country.
“We are deeply concerned that the GoZ did not only fail to comply with its undertaking but also acted contrary to its entrenched position to align the laws of the country to the new Constitution and safeguarding the sanctity of the Constitution,” said ZLHR.
While they commended government for repealing defamation laws, the civil society organisations condemned government for continued harassment and intimidation of journalists.