WOZA Abuse: Zim Ignores African Commission

Banjul, April 23, 2014 – The Zimbabwean government has failed to respond to an abuse case brought before the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) by leading human rights group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA).

But that will not stop the African Union organ from going ahead to hear the matter, saying the case will proceed on the basis of available information. WOZA, whose members are routinely harassed, arrested and detained in filthy cells – at times with toddlers on their backs – dragged the Zimbabwe government to the ACHPR outlining grave human rights abuses by government agents such as the police.

The ACHPR has since dispatched a letter to WOZA’s lawyers confirming that it will hear the case.

“I write further to our letter Ref: ACHPR/COMM 446/13/ZIM/38/14 dated 16 January 2013 confirming receipt of your communication on the admissibility of the above referenced communication.

“Please kindly note that the Commission has not received submissions on Admissibility from the Respondent State and therefore it will proceed to consider the Admissibility of this Communication on the basis of the available information,” wrote Dr Mary Maboreke, the ACHPR secretary, on 27 March this year.

The ACHPR accepted to hear WOZA’s case during the 14th Extraordinary Session held from July 20-­24, 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya.

This meant the ACHPR now wanted the Zimbabwean government to respond to the alleged rights violations. Zimbabwe has not filed its response. 

Government appears to have scant respect for the ACHPR as it has ignored adverse rulings made by the Commission in the past. Being a party to the African Charter, Zimbabwe is bound by the ACPHR’s decisions, although the organ lacks the force to implement its decisions, a situation exploited by countries such as Zimbabwe to disregard past rulings.

The Commission was inaugurated in November 1987 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the Secretariat subsequently being located in Banjul, The Gambia. It is fundamentally tasked with the protection of human and peoples’ rights, the promotion of human and peoples’ rights and the interpretation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

WOZA’s complaint is that the Republic of Zimbabwe – which ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on May 30, 1986 – has routinely violated WOZA’s right to peaceful protest and assembly.

The complaint, which was initially submitted in April 2013, documents a litany of arrests, beatings, arbitrary detentions, and general physical harassment of WOZA members for over a decade between 2003 and 2013.

Formed in 2002, WOZA is a mass civic movement with a countrywide membership of approximately 85 000 citizens.

The internationally recognised and award winning organisation lobbies and advocates on issues pertaining to women and their families in Zimbabwe and participates in a range of peaceful campaigns, both locally and internationally.

The group says its principal aim is to mobilise Zimbabweans, particularly women, to demand social justice and educates its members about their rights and freedoms and encourages them to fully participate in important civic processes.

The WOZA case is one of several which have been lodged at the Commission by Zimbabweans, including those in the Diaspora, against the Zimbabwe government. ACHPR rulings on some of the cases, such as the one ordering the Zimbabwean government to ensure that people in the Diaspora were afforded the right to vote have been ignored by Harare.

But WOZA leader Jenni Williams is hopeful that the case will, nonetheless, help expose Zimbabwe’s human rights record.

 

Source: The Legal Monitor