UN Rights Chief Pillay Arrives In Zimbabwe

Pillay, who last week said she was looking forward to the trip to Harare, will engage with the government, civil society and other stakeholders in Zimbabwe to better understand the human rights situation on the ground.

“It’s very important that the government has invited the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights and I am here to assess the human rights situation and to see how the United Nations can help to advance human rights protection here,” Pillay told journalists soon after arriving at Harare International Airport Sunday evening in the capital.

“I will not be making any statement because that is not fair. I just get off the plane and I shouldn’t pretend that I know what the situation is like. So first I will have all the meetings, see for myself then hopefully meet with all of you on Friday morning.”
Justice and Parliamentary Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa, his permanent secretary David Mangota and senior UN officials met Pillay at the airport.

“We are honoured to have the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights coming to us on a week-long visit. She doesn’t want to make a statement. She will have a press conference on Friday,” Chinamasa said.

During the five-day mission, Pillay will meet President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Legal Affairs and other ministers. She will also meet Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, the President and Speaker of Parliament, and the Thematic Committee on Human Rights.

She will also meet with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and members of civil society in the country.

Pillay is considering a number of field visits within and outside Harare, where she will meet local communities and civil society members in the areas to listen to their experiences and views.

Unconfirmed reports said Pillay might visit the Chiadzwa diamond fields, which were a site of the rights abuses by police, army and security agencies when they were clearing illegal diamond panners to pave way for mining companies to mine gems.

Zimbabwe once barred UN’s special rapportuer on torture Manfred Nowak from conducting his business in the country although he had been invited by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa. Nowak was not allowed to enter the country although he had already touched down at Harare International Airport. He slept on a couch waiting for the next flight back home.