Victims Perspectives on the Establishment of the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission

Introduction

Zimbabwe is, at present, working towards establishing an Independent Complaints Commission (Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission – ZICC) as a mechanism to help citizens hold members of the state security accountable. The ZICC is essentially established under Section 210 of the Zimbabwean Constitution, adopted in 2013. Hence, the setting up of the ZICC constitutes the imperative of pursuing the right to an effective remedy for human rights violations in the hands of state security agents.

To amplify the voices of victims of past human rights violations, this research brief highlights the victims’ perspectives on the setting up of the ZICC; what they think about the enabling legislation and how they would want the ZICC to function. The brief also identifies, existing gaps in the current draft law, with a particular focus on institutional independence and enforceability of its findings.

Section 210 of the Constitution

Section 210 of the Zimbabwean Constitution states that “an Act of parliament must provide an effective and independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the state and remedying any harm caused by such misconduct.” This provision implies the right to an effective and fair remedy, which makes the right to equality before the law and the right to equal protection under law imperative. To comply with Section 210 of the Constitution, the Zimbabwean government introduced a ZICC Bill in 2020, which is currently under consideration in Parliament. In this regard, it is appropriate to view the ZICC as one anticipated efficient way to make it possible for citizens to file their complaints against members of the state security establishment perpetrating human rights violations with expectations for fair remedy and accountability.

In light of section 210 of the Constitution, victims of misconduct by members of the state security are members of the public who experience harm including physical, mental or emotional harm, in this case, at the hands of members of the state security apparatus. Members of the State Security are the people responsible for serving and protecting the citizens of a country. In Zimbabwe, members of the state security include the police force known as the Zimbabwean Republic Police whose function is to preserve the internal security and to maintain law and order by preventing, detecting and investigating criminal activities ,the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) which contribute to the security of the state by providing military defence , the Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS) which was established for the administration of prisons in Zimbabwe and for the protection of society from criminals through the incarceration and rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the society and the Intelligence Services known as the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) whose role is to provide high level security to the state from threats both within and outside Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwean Case: Victim Perspective

In an attempt to understand victims’ perspectives on the setting up of the ZICC, Heal Zimbabwe Trust carried out a rapid research where past victims of state security agents’ brutality were asked about their experiences in trying to access justice and any other possible remedies. A total of 15 key informants, who are victims, were asked about how they were violated, their attempts to access justice and hurdles they experienced. The research participants were purposefully selected using the snowballing sampling techniques represented different provinces (Masvingo, Bulawayo, Manicaland, Harare, Mashonaland Central and the Midlands Provinces), different forms of violations by different security agencies and at varying conflicts episodes.

Conclusion and Recommendations

It is progressive that the Government of Zimbabwe has taken a step towards establishing the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission (ZICC) as a mechanism to help victims of human rights violations by members of the state security report their cases and register complaints.

To augment this progressive effort, it is recommended that:

  • The government must consider addressing fears of all victims of human rights violations by members of the security services including fears of insecurity in the event the cases are reported to the police and being handled in the country’s justice system.
  • The ZICC legislation must ensure that the Commission is independent enough to inspire confidence among members of the public in order to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness in addressing human rights violations perpetrated by security service members.
  • Substantive remedies must be provided to victims of such violations which should act as a deterrent measure to potential human rights violations perpetrators among the members of the security services.
  • Adequate financial resources should be allocated to the commission so that it can effectively execute its mandate. Experience from the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (Zimbabwe) shows that lack of financial resources can cripple institutions.
  • There is need to speed up the process of the establishment of the commission.

Read the full report here(30MB PDF)

Source: Heal Zimbabwe

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