THE African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has suppressed publication of the results of its probe on Zimbabwe to protect President Mugabe’s regime ahead of the Co
mmonwealth Summit in Abuja, Nigeria in December.
The Zimbabwe Independent this week heard the report should have been tabled last month at the African Union heads of state summit in Maputo. It was not tabled because the AU commission is refusing to make it public.
The report, which should have been released in October last year, was supposed to be published at the 33rd session of the commission in Niamey, Niger in May this year but the commissioners claimed there was not enough time to consider it.
African diplomats close to the commission this week said the report condemns President Mugabe and his regime for human rights abuses.
Reports on Zimbabwe’s human rights record from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been rejected by African states who accuse the two of Western bias.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO forum chairman Albert Musarurwa on Wednesday said publication of the report was overdue.
“At the moment we doubt if the report will be made public at the 34th session of the commission in Banjul, Gambia in October,” said Musarurwa.
Diplomats this week said the failure to table the report was part of a wider cover-up strategy by the AU which is lobbying the Commonwealth to re-admit Zimbabwe in the club in Abuja in December. Condemnation by fellow Africans through the commission would bolster the Commonwealth’s argument that Zimbabwe should remain suspended from its councils, one diplomat said.
The AU fact-finding mission visited Zimbabwe in 2001 to probe human rights abuses and left with huge volumes of evidence mainly from civic society.
Musarurwa said the delay in publishing the report stemmed from the protectionist mode of African heads of state.
“The AU has become a trade union of leaders who want to protect each other. This is a cancer that will be with us for a long time,” he said.
African rights activists are putting pressure on the commission to make public results of the probe ahead of the Abuja Commonwealth meeting in December.
An African Civil Society Consultation meeting on Zimbabwe attended by activists from Africa and Europe in Gaborone, Botswana from August 5 to 6 implored the commission to release the report.
“The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights should make its report on the fact-finding mission public at its next session in October 2003,” activists said in a communiqué after the consultation.
“The commission should then consider its mission report together with submissions of civil society organisations and decide in line with Article 58 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that a situation of serious and massive violations of human rights exists in Zimbabwe and bring this to the attention of the chairperson of the African Union and further, make recommendations on immediate steps to be taken by the Zimbabwean government to end the human rights violations,” they said.