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«L’OBSERVATOIRE EL OBSERVATORIO pour la Protection des Défenseurs para la Protección de los Defensores de des Droits de l’Homme Derechos Humanos ...»

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pour la Protection des Défenseurs para la Protección de los Defensores de

des Droits de l’Homme Derechos Humanos

Report International Fact-finding Mission ZIMBABWE: Run up to the March 29 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections - A Highly Repressive Environment for Human Rights Defenders I - Introduction II. Patterns of human rights violations against defenders, including main perpetrators.

III. Individual recounts and experiences of human rights defenders A. Human rights defenders of civil and political rights B. Human rights defenders of economic, social and cultural rights C. Cases of repression against journalists human rights defenders IV. Conclusions and recommendations Un programme de la FIDH et de l’OMCT - A FIDH and OMCT venture - Un programa de la FIDH y de la OMCT International Federation of Human Rights 17, Passage de la Main d’Or World Organisation Against Torture 75 011 Paris, France Case postale 21 - 8 rue du Vieux-Billard 1211 Geneva 8, Switzerland March 2008 Content


1. Delegation’s composition and objectives

2. Historical account of the present situation

3. Context in the run up of the March 29, 2008 harmonised Presidential and Parliamentary elections



1. Legal sanction and restrictive legislation

2. Arrest, police assault, acts of torture (sometimes leading to death) and arbitrary detentions

3. Surveillance visits and breakdown of offices

4. Death threats, harassment and acts of intimidation

5. Defamation and media hate propaganda

6. Abductions and disappearances

7. Restriction on public meetings and events

8. Denial of food supplies and other basic services

9. Restriction on movement and travel abroad

10. Access to financial resources and restriction on bank transaction


A. Human rights defenders of civil and political rights

1. Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)

2. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR)

3. Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZIMRIGHTS) - Bulawayo

4. Women Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)

5. National Constitution Assembly (NCA)

6. Christian Alliance B. Human rights defenders of economic, social and cultural rights

1. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) - Mutare

2. Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ)

3. Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) C. Cases of repression against journalists human rights defenders

1. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)

2. Radio Dialogue



–  –  –

1. Delegation’s composition and objectives In the past few years, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Observatory), a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has undertaken several missions in Zimbabwe on the situation of human rights defenders1. These missions have generally shed light on the government’s will and determination to systematically silence any kind of protest. Particularly, the Observatory has previously reported the systematic and sustained repression of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe through a combination of measures - mainly a very repressive operating legislative framework and a selective administrative application of such repressive laws. These legislative provisions and selective administrative measures are generally a blatant violation of the rights of human rights defenders as contained in international human rights instruments, notably the 1998 United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders] and other instruments that the Zimbabwean Government has signed and ratified, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

Since March 2007 there has been an escalation in the brazen use of force and violence by State agents in Zimbabwe to silence the legitimate political opposition and its perceived supporters - mainly the human rights defenders. Such was the alarming use of force and other crude methods including arbitrary arrests and detentions, disappearances and torture that even the Southern African Development Community (SADC) political leadership set up a mediation (facilitation) process presided over by South African President Mbeki to try and mediate to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe in order the create the possibility of Zimbabweans holding free and fair elections.

Notwithstanding the efforts of the SADC political leadership to assist Zimbabweans to resolve their crisis and the full cooperation of the opposition, the Government of Zimbabwe decided to announce, in a unilateral manner, that harmonised elections for the Presidential, Parliamentary and local government elections were going to be held on March 29, 2008. This was irregardless of whether the SADC Mbeki mediation would have produced a result or not.

The Observatory was concerned that the run up to the Parliamentary and Presidential elections - without prior constitutional changes advocated by the opposition parties and civil society activists - would constitute a specific operating environment, which the Observatory feared could expose human rights defenders to heightened persecution.

In this context, the Observatory decided to send a fact-finding mission in order to assess the situation of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe in the run up towards the country’s elections on March 29, 2008 as well as to strengthen the protection of human rights defenders who have been operating under a difficult environment for some time. The mission was held from January 21 to 31, 2008.

The Observatory delegation was composed of Mr. Osman Hummaida, a Sudanese lawyer and a member of OMCT Assembly of Delegates, Mrs. Sheila Nabachwa, a member of the Ugandan Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), and Mr. Deus Kibamba, a member of the Tanzanian Legal Human Rights Centre (LHRC).

The delegation’s work was guided by the following goals:

• To investigate on the patterns of persecution of human rights defenders and identify the perpetrators of these violations;

• To collect first-hand information on which categories of human rights defenders (members of tradeunions, NGOs, judges, lawyers, etc.) have suffered the greatest degree of persecution, and collect first-hand testimonies on cases of repression;

• To enquire on the capacity (or lack of capacity) of Zimbabwean institutions to offer effective protection to human rights defenders;

• To draft recommendations to be submitted to the Government of Zimbabwe and to international organisations, notably the African Union, and the European Union.

To achieve its objectives, the delegation visited the following places in Zimbabwe: Harare, Bulawayo, and Mutare.

See Observatory Fact-Finding Mission Report, 2003: Systematic repression of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, February 2004. In June and September 2006, the Observatory also carried out judicial observation missions in Zimbabwe, jointly with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

The delegation was able to meet with the following civil society representatives:

- Mrs. Maureen Kademaunga, Gender and Human Rights Officer, and Mr. Marvelous Kumalo, Advocacy and Policy Analysis Officer, Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)

- Mr. Arnold Tsunga, Mrs. Irene Petras, Mrs. Rose Hanzi and Mrs. Rangu Nyamurindira, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR)

- Representatives of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)

- Dr. Lovemore Madhuku, Chairperson, National Constitution Assembly (NCA)

- Representatives of the National Consultative Forum - Bulawayo

- Representatives of the Christian Alliance

- Representatives of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) - Bulawayo

- Rev. Steven Maengamhuru, ZimRights provincial coordinator for Manikaland

- Mrs. Janet Mudzviti, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD)

- Representatives of the Zimbabwean Election Support Network (ZESN)

- Mr. Moyo Gordon, Executive Director, Bulawayo Agenda

- Mr. Zenzele Ndebele, Production Manager, Radio Dialogue

- Ms. Jennifer Williams, Coordinator, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)

- Representatives of the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) - Mutare The mission also had meetings with representatives of the judiciary and the Zimbabwe Election Commission.

The Observatory wishes to thank Mr. Arnold Tsunga, FIDH Vice President, Chairman of ZimRights and a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), for the precious help he offered to the mission and in editing the report. The Observatory also wishes to thank all members of ZimRights and ZHLR.

2. Historical account of the present situation The Republic of Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, is a land-locked country located in the southern part of Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the west, Zambia to the north and Mozambique to the east.

The country, with a population of approximately 12 million, is constitutionally a Republic, but the Government, led by President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) since independence, is over-powerful and not subject to any effective checks and balances. The last two national elections, the Presidential elections in 2002 and the Parliamentary elections in March 2005, were neither free nor fair by even the minimum international standards2. Although the Constitution allows for multiparty politics, the ruling party and security forces regularly intimidate and commit abuses against opposition parties and their supporters and often obstruct their activities. The divided Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is the country’s official main opposition party and, despite the fraudulent elections, the MDC factions currently hold 41 of 120 elected seats in the House of Assembly and seven of 50 elected seats in the Senate. Furthermore, the country is run by security chiefs through a body known as the Joint Operation Command (JOC), which has been responsible for what is referred to as a low intensity warfare and often uses command power to control the legitimate political opposition as well as human rights defenders.

The ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe finds its origins in 1965, when Ian Smith, the leader of Southern Rhodesia, issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from Britain. He imposed white-minority rule. This action resulted in the adoption of international sanctions and in a guerilla war which, by 1979, had claimed some 36,000 lives and displaced some 1.5 million people. Britain brokered a peace deal in 1979 involving Smith’s government, Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), which culminated in the Lancaster House Agreement.

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