Govt-CSOs In Geneva Showdown Over Zim Rights Situation

By Dylan Murambgi

Harare, October 31, 2016 – PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s government is headed for a showdown with the country’s civil society organisations (CSOs) which have prepared a document detailing the Harare regime’s rights abuses for presentation at this week’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Zimbabwe is among the 193 countries under the UN that go through a periodic peer review system on how it was implementing UN recommendations on rights.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who also doubles as the country’s Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, is leading a government delegation to the Wednesday meeting.

He is set to present a government report which outlines the steps taken so far to promote and bring about more human rights in the country.

But he will have a tough time as CSOs have also prepared their own report which is contrary to government’s.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) chairperson Sally Dura said on Monday that a delegation of civic leaders led by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) was in Geneva to present its own report on the rights situation in the country.

“We participated in the UPR process and made our submissions as CSOs led by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights which are members of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in a separate document that shows a dearth in both the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and governance deficit,” Dura said.

“We painted and predicted an escalation of human rights violations as the country edges towards 2018 elections.”

President Mugabe’s increasingly beleaguered regime faces growing disillusionment from the population for poor leadership, high level corruption and rights abuses, among some of the ills.

Recent months have seen the state increase the use of brute force to stop a wave of anti-government protests as citizens turned up the heat on the Zanu PF led government.

Hundreds have been arrested and tortured in desperate attempts to clamp down on the ring leaders of the protests.

Government also finds itself in a difficult position of trying to distance itself from the abduction and disappearance of journalist and pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara in March last year.

Food aid discrimination, violence on opposition supporters and rights defenders, vote buying and the ban on opposition rallies by the State will also feature prominently is the CSOs report in Geneva.

“As expected, he (Mnangagwa) will try to portray a positive outlook and downplay our report but we remain resolute that empirical (evidence) on the ground point to a predatory state that has instituted over 600 arrests in less than 6 months on peaceful protesters,” Dura said.

“In the absence of the state accounting for Itai Dzamara, we remain with doubt as to the extent of commitment to redress human rights violations.

“Since we have submitted the country report we have also seen the state subverting constitutional processes with the recent cases of attacks on parliamentarians who were undertaking their constitutional duties during the public hearings in the ERC petition for electoral reforms.”

Dura said the Geneva meeting will see side events to highlight the Zimbabwe situation an exhibition on human rights abuses in the country and a public meeting organised by ZLHR, Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum and Zimbabwe Human Rights association.