AS ZIMBABWE marks the first anniversary since the new constitution was signed into law there is no cause for celebration as legislation restricting internationally recognised human rights are still in place, Amnesty International has said.
The international human rights organisation said this is despite the new constitution promising improved civil and other liberties which would further the democratisation agenda.
In a press statement Amnesty’s Director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena said: “A year ago the people of Zimbabwe were celebrating a new constitution which promised a much improved Declaration of Rights.
“Unfortunately, government has since failed to amend or repeal all the laws rendered unconstitutional and continues to use these laws to repress people exercising their rights in Zimbabwe.”
Amnesty said public order, security and criminal laws are being used to deny people their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, despite guarantees under the new constitution.
Citing examples, the organisation said it documented numerous cases over the last year where meetings or activities have been barred and human rights defenders have been arrested and charged.
“In April alone nearly a dozen demonstrators and community activists were arrested for organising and taking part in peaceful protests in Masvingo. Independent journalism is under threat with journalists regularly arrested and charged,” reads the statement.
Last month the editor of NewsDay, Nevanji Madanhire and a reporter of the publication were charged with contravening the criminal law after publishing a story alleging police were partly responsible following the death of a four-year old that was killed by a minibus fleeing from the police.
On May 3 the police banned a planned World Press Freedom Day march in Harare.
But the new constitution, approved overwhelmingly in a referendum and signed into law on 22 May 2013, provides for a wide range of human rights under the Declaration of Rights including economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.
Muchena said: “The new constitution offers a blueprint of what Zimbabwe wants to become: a country that protects the rights and freedoms of all citizens under law. A country where the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are respected and journalists and human rights defenders are able to conduct their work without fear of harassment, intimidation or arrest.”
“A year after it was signed into law, we call on the government to take urgent action to align the country’s laws with the new constitution and to make the vision a reality.”