Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR) urges the Zimbabwean government to fully embrace the progressive recommendations that were proposed by United Nations (UN) member states in Geneva on 26 January 2022 during the UN Human Rights Council-led Universal Periodic Review (UPR) ‘Interactive Dialogue Session’.
The UPR is a special peer review mechanism led by the UN Human Rights Council to examine the human rights records of all the 193 member states of the UN. It was established in 2006 when the UN General Assembly created the UN Human Rights Council. The UPR process aims to improve the human rights situation in all nations of the world by providing a platform for member states to make recommendations, and review each other, to encourage adherence to human rights best practices. It is a unique mechanism designed in a manner that ensures that all countries are treated equally when their human rights records are assessed. States are assessed periodically, at least every four and half years, when their implementation of state recommendations on human rights compliance made in the previous cycles is monitored.
On 26 January 2022, Zimbabwe’s human rights record was examined by the UPR Working Group at its Third Cycle review meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland. The Zimbabwean delegation was led by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Hon. Ziyambi Ziyambi. The review was based on:
- A national report consisting of information provided by the Zimbabwean state;
- The reports of independent human rights experts and groups (Special Procedures), human rights treaty bodies and other UN entities; and
- The information contained in the reports of other stakeholders, such as national human rights institutions, regional organisations and civil society groups.
ZLHR and 67 other civil society organisations (CSO) contributed to the stakeholders report through a joint CSO stakeholder submissions report on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Ahead of the review, this report was further developed into an advocacy charter with at least 84 CSOs.
During the Interactive Dialogue session, UN member States provided extensive recommendations for the improvement of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and the alignment of the nation’s domestic laws with its international obligations. Some of the recommendations include: the establishment of an Independent Complaints Mechanism to investigate and address human rights violations by members of the security services; the adoption of swift measures to end impunity for human rights violations; the protection and strengthening of the civic space in the country; and the adoption of legislation that is designed to protect Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Zimbabwe was urged to stop the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists, students and other HRDs. Importantly, UN members recommended that Zimbabwe amend the Private Voluntary Organisations Act in consultation with civil society, and abandon the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, to open up civic space in the country. UN member states also recommended the extension of voting rights to prisoners and the Zimbabwean diaspora. In addition, member states urged Zimbabwe to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and ensure that elections are free and fair.
Significantly, member states recommended that Zimbabwe ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which would criminalise torture in Zimbabwe. 166 of the 193 United Nations member states have adopted the Convention and of the fifty-five African countries, Zimbabwe and Tanzania are the only two that have neither signed nor ratified the Convention. Unfortunately the Zimbabwean delegation stated Zimbabwe already has adequate domestic laws to address torture. Zimbabwe was also urged to reconsider its position on treatment of sexual minorities.
The Zimbabwean delegation was however receptive to recommendations for the state to abolish the death penalty in Zimbabwe, and to criminalise the practice of child marriages. Zimbabwe was also commended by member states for its efforts in protecting and advancing the rights of persons living with disabilities, adopting measures that are designed to combat the scourge of Gender-Based Violence and for providing free COVID-19 vaccines to the general population. Despite these positive developments, member states recommended that Zimbabwe take swift action to address the outstanding human rights issues in the country from the previous and current cycles.
On 28 January 2022, the Troika —countries leading the review of Zimbabwe by the UN Human Rights Council— announced that of the 264 recommendations made, Zimbabwe had supported (accepted) 127, 39 were noted (rejected), and 98 had been deferred. The government has until the 50th session of the Human Rights Council, currently scheduled for June or July 2022, to accept or reject the deferred 98 recommendations. ZLHR welcomes the acceptance by the state of 127 recommendations, and calls upon the Zimbabwean authorities to urgently accept the outstanding recommendations.
In light of the comprehensive recommendations that were made during the Third UPR Cycle review of Zimbabwe, ZLHR calls upon Zimbabwean authorities to;
- Accept all the outstanding progressive recommendations made by other UN members states ahead of the adoption of the final report during the 50th Human Rights Council Session;
- Reconsider its position on the rejected recommendations before the 50th Human Rights Council Session;
- In the meantime, take urgent action to implement robust measures that will improve the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and align its domestic laws with its international human rights obligations.
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights