UN Urges Zimbabwe To Allow CSOs, Judges To Operate Independently

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By Thandiwe Garusa

UNITED NATIONS (UN) member states have urged Harare to guarantee a conducive operating space for civil society organisations (CSOs), independence of the judiciary, and harmonisation of the country’s laws with the Constitution.

This was said Wednesday at the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (#UPR40) meeting on the human rights record of Zimbabwe in Geneva, Switzerland.

During the meeting, Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi submitted that Zimbabwe was up to date with its reporting obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

However, the UN Rights Council (UNHRC) disputed Ziyambi’s statement and warned Zimbabwe to stop human rights violations and protect human rights defenders.

“States recommended that Zimbabwe protects and strengthens civic space, take swift actions to end impunity and human rights violations, adopts legislation protecting human rights defenders, allows the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” the UNHRC said.

“Zimbabwe ratifies the conventions against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance, and the protection of the rights of all migrant workers.

“States also recommended that Zimbabwe strengthens efforts to improve access to healthcare facilities and medical assistance, guarantees persons under 18 the right to sexual and reproductive health, protects minors from non-consensual surgeries and violations of the body.

“Zimbabwe pursues its efforts towards education for all by providing teachers with training on using e-learning platforms, guaranteeing 12 years of free primary and secondary education, providing internet access to all schools,” UNHRC said.

Zimbabwe was also advised to implement the Motlanthe Commission, extend voting rights to Zimbabweans living in the diaspora, fight violence and discrimination against women and ensure the rights of LGBTQIA decriminalise same sex relations as well as criminalising child marriages.

The Commission of Inquiry, which was chaired by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, following the shooting of civilians by soldiers in central Harare in August 2018, gave four broad recommendations which included compensation of the victims’ families, electoral reforms, political co-existence, and security sector reforms.

It also demanded that Zimbabwe should take steps in combating human trafficking, ensure access to food, water, and adequate housing for people affected by climate change and natural disasters, and ensure access to birth registration for people living in rural areas.