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Amnesty International voices concern over repression, abuse in Zimbabwe

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The annual report released Wednesday by Amnesty International paints a dismal picture of human rights repression and international rule-breaking worldwide, all in the midst of deepening global inequality and an escalating climate crisis.

In the report, Amnesty had a rare note of commendation for Zimbabwe, praising the government for enacting the Children’s Amendment Act of 2023, which criminalizes marriages of people under the age of 18.

But Lucia Masuka, head of Amnesty International in Zimbabwe, still had many critical things to say about President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

“We are mainly concerned with the issue of repression of dissent, which we noted, which was characterized by the severe restrictions in freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, particularly during the election period,” said Masuka. “We are also concerned with the cases that are lost after the (2023) elections, cases of abductions, torture and in some cases, you know, killings where the perpetrators are not apprehended or brought to account.”

Rights groups have harshly criticized Zimbabwe for human rights abuses for decades, going back at least to the early 2000s, when the government of then-President Robert Mugabe engaged in alleged election rigging and forced thousands of white commercial farmers off their land.

Farai Muroiwa Marapira, spokesman for the ruling ZANU-PF party, disputes Amnesty International’s conclusions about Zimbabwe, saying the agency releases its reports “not based on facts, not based on merit, but based on agendaism.

“We really do not have much respect for what they have to say, because they do not speak from a point of impartiality, they do not speak from a point of objectivity, and we cannot serve our people and our nation at the same time and attend to agendarists,” said Marapira. “So, they are free to say what they want as usual, we will tell them what to do of it.”

President Mnangagwa’s government has rejected all criticism of the way the 2023 elections were conducted, despite critical reports from organizations such as the Southern African Development Community.

In a presentation of Amnesty’s report, Deprose Muchena, a senior director in the rights group, touched on several other African crises.

Muchena noted that the conflict in Sudan has led to a major displacement internally. According to the United Nations, more than 9 million people have been internally displaced since April 2023, making Sudan the largest displacement crisis in the world.

“Up to 1.8 million people are now refugees in neighboring countries, such as Chad, South Sudan, and Egypt,” said Muchena. “The catastrophic humanitarian crisis is now approaching famine proportions as many people watch.”

He also noted the chronic human rights crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where violence has forced millions of people from their homes, and the effects of conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. War broke out in the Tigray region in November 2020 between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the party that dominated the region. The war lasted two years.

“Survivors and victims of this war in Ethiopia have faced horrendous human rights violations and neglect by Ethiopian authorities despite their persistent calls for justice,” said Muchena. “After the guns were silenced in the Tigray region in 2022, two other armed conflicts in Oromia and Amara region continue to rage.”

Women in Ethiopia, he said, “continue to bear the ultimate brunt of this conflict in violation. In addition to conflict-related sexual violence faced by tens of thousands of women, we are seeing harmful practices such as abduction for marriage, which are putting Ethiopia at risk. Ethiopia remains another forgotten crisis.”

The report also warned that the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence worldwide — and the disinformation that AI helps spread — could lead to further breakdowns in the international rule of law.

Some information for this report was provided by the Reuters news agency.