The world commemorates the International Human Rights Day today, on 10 December 2020. The day marks the 62nd anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the Declaration). The United Nations 2020 commemorations are being held under the theme, Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights. Under this theme, the United Nations has called for solidarity building human rights conscious communities. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the world in commemorating this day and reaffirms its recognition of this ground-breaking declaration in the history of the human rights movement.
The Forum remains extremely concerned that Zimbabweans are commemorating the International Human Rights Day in a country where socio-economic and political rights continued to deteriorate. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens have continued to suffer marginalisation and various forms of repression and aggression in the country. Human rights violations such as abductions, torture, assault, unlawful arrests and pre-trial detention of journalists, human rights defenders and opposition party activists have been on the increase throughout the year. The State and its affiliated law enforcement institutions have been identified as the major perpetrators of these violations.
The Forum also notes with regret that the restrictions of fundamental freedoms, which were implemented supposedly to curb the COVID-19 pandemic have further exacerbated violations and related impunity by the State. While the pandemic has been raging, the government has taken the opportunity of the lockdown to increase its suppression of the right to freedom of expression, assembly, association. The freedom to demonstrate and petition was severely curtailed through the arrest and unlawful pretrial detention of over 200 people who embarked on lawful protests on 31 July 2020.
During the year, the Forum noted with concern the growing impunity and disregard for the rule of law by government institutions whose mandate is to serve and protect the citizens of Zimbabwe. Court orders issued by the courts to promote the realisation of rights were blatantly ignored. Lately, the Forum also became concerned with plans by the government to enact laws that target the work of civil society organisations in the country. The government has also refused to negotiate in good faith with critical service providers such as doctors, nurses and teachers severely compromising the right to health and education. The Forum notes that these actions by the government are not in line with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Rights.
In light of this, the Forum calls upon the government to embrace the tenets and spirit of the Declaration and fully respect, protect and fulfil all human rights of all its citizens and in particular to:
- take urgent measures to resolve the ongoing socio-economic challenges that have eroded the dignity of the people.
- take urgent and progressive measures to address the ongoing crisis in service delivery in the health, education and water and sanitation sectors of the country.
- ensure full compliance with the Constitution by all its agents and that all human rights violations are fully investigated and punished.
- ratify all outstanding human rights treaties such as the UN Convention Against Torture in order to ensure that all the fundamental human rights are protected and guaranteed in Zimbabwe.
- embrace partnerships with CSOs instead of targeting and persecuting them.
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum