By Professor Matodzi
Harare, December 17, 2013 – Dozens of human rights defenders on Tuesday took to the streets of Harare to protest against rising incidences of human rights abuses and violation of basic rights.
The human rights campaigners who marched from the offices of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) along Samora Machel Avenue to Harare gardens picketed at President Robert Mugabe’s offices at Munhumutapa Building, where the Zanu PF leader presided over a session of his Cabinet.
The marchers, including lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, grassroots human rights defenders and members of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) wore their regalia and waved flags, placards, banners and posters denouncing human rights violations and the intensified crackdown on human rights defenders.
Some GALZ placards read; “Galz says respect diversity”.
The march which was jointly organised by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and several civil society organisations was part of belated commemorations to mark International Human Rights Day.
This is the second year that the government through the ZHRC teamed up with civil society organisations to commemorate the important day on the human rights calendar.
In the past, civil society leaders and campaigners would engage in pitched battles with the police, who used to clampdown on their demonstrations.
Fortune Chasi, the Deputy Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister who delivered the keynote speech at the event blamed targeted sanctions imposed by western governments for hampering the full enjoyment and protection of human rights in Zimbabwe.
“We therefore plead with those who have imposed such unjustified sanctions on this great country to lift them unconditionally so that we celebrate unfettered human rights,” said Chasi.
In his remarks, Aldo Dell’ Ariccia, the head of the European Union (EU) to Zimbabwe also added his voices to the growing calls for the abolition of the death penalty and the outlawing of torture in Zimbabwe.
“The EU appreciates that Zimbabwe has ratified a significant number of international treaties. However, the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (CAT) is still to be ratified,” said Dell’ Ariccia.