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Zim yet to ratify rights conventions

Munyaradzi Wasosa

ZIMBABWE is among 25 countries that have not ratified conventions and agreements of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

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The country has been ranked among the “worst offenders”, according to a recent report by Reporters Without Borders.

Others named “worst offenders” along with Zimbabwe are Cuba and China, which have been branded the “two biggest prisons in the world for journalists”. Ironically, Libya, which currently chairs the commission and is President Mugabe’s close ally, does not appear on the list. This comes at a time when the 60th session of the commission, which began on Tuesday and ends on April 23, is being held in Geneva, Switzerland.

A government delegation led by Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa is attending the session, where it is expected to canvass the support of “friendly countries” to fight the adoption of a motion to discuss Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has not ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, the statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the two Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICC additional Protocols focus on issues pertaining to crimes against humanity and genocide mostly perpetrated by the state.

Zimrights executive director Munyaradzi Bidi in an interview this week slammed government’s reluctance to ratify the conventions.

“Zimbabwe’s human rights record has grown worse,” he said. “The government is aware that if it ratifies (the conventions), it will be accountable to the international community. With the general elections coming, international scrutiny is the last thing the regime would want,” he said.

Bidi cited the recently invoked Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures)(Amendment of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) Regulations as an example of the country’s worsening human rights conditions. The amendment gives the government powers to detain suspects of serious commercial crimes for up to a month without bail.

“This has become the ‘Makamba Regulations’,” Bidi said in reference to businessman James Makamba who has been in remand prison on corruption charges since February 9.

“It violates article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Zimbabwe ratified,” he said.

Human rights analysts argue that since the government has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is technically bound to respect clauses of other conventions which it has not ratified. Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa (Sahrit)’s deputy director of programmes Farai Chiweshe, expressed concern at Zimbabwe’s position.

“Whatever reason the government has for not ratifying, it works negatively for the country. We call on the government to ratify UN conventions, especially the crucial one against torture,” said Chiweshe.

Human rights groups, media institutions and other lobby groups are expected to give evidence at the Geneva session, detailing gross human rights violations in the country.

Government representatives will then be given the opportunity to defend their position. If a motion is adopted to discuss Zimbabwe, the commission will send rappoteurs to investigate and gather evidence in the country for presentation at the next session.

Earlier this month, the International Federation for Human Rights, at its 35th session in Quito, Equador, adopted a resolution on Zimbabwe. The document outlines the federation’s demand for the commission to adopt a motion on Zimbabwe “condemning human rights violations perpetrated by the regime, in particular those targeting human rights defenders”.

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