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AU leaders should act on Zim human rights report

ON July 3 the African Union executive council received a report compiled by its internal African Commission on Human and People’s Rights which criticises the Zimbabwean government for gross human rights violations.

P>The report blames the Mugabe regime for the arrests and torture of opposition members of parliament, human rights lawyers, journalists, the stifling of freedom of expression and clampdowns on other civil liberties.

The MDC welcomes this latest development but the proof of the African Union’s commitment to human rights on the continent will only be evident following the AU’s annual summit of heads of state which began on Tuesday.

We call upon Africa’s leaders to act upon the report that their own organisation has compiled. Should they fail to do so, they risk undermining their own structure and turning it into an ineffectual talk shop.

If Africa’s leaders cannot act on human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, investigated and confirmed by Africans, then they will betray the trust of all freedom-loving Zimbabweans and Africans across the continent.

We are however concerned that the report, which resulted from a visit to Zimbabwe by the AU’s African Commission on Human and People’s Rights from June 24-28 2002, has taken so long to be adopted by the African Union.

We must not forget that the Zimbabwean situation has deteriorated sharply since the report was compiled in 2002 and we call upon the AU to take concrete steps to ensure that the government corrects its appalling record on civil liberties, freedom of speech and human rights, especially in the light of the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

The regime continues to train and fund the activities of a youth militia which is responsible for torture and murder of hundreds of opposition supporters.

The police force has not been allowed to play its role to bring about law and order and has in many instances been turned into a partisan force.

Since the visit by the human rights commission the regime has continued to undermine and abuse the judiciary. The regime has also continued to ignore all court judgements that it does not agree with.

The independent media has been under siege. There has been physical attacks, wanton arrests and deportation of journalists from the independent media through the use of draconian media legislation.

At least three newspapers have been forced to close down, including the only independent daily newspaper.

In essence, democratic space continues to shrink while the regime in Zimbabwe seeks to deceive the world and Africa in particular.

Paul Themba Nyathi,

Secretary for Information and Publicity MDC.

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