Zimbabwe backslides on human rights: EU

An EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2019: Zimbabwe

The European Union has adopted the 2019 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World.

Respect for all human rights is a pillar of free, stable, prosperous societies and the EU is proud to be at the forefront of the universal promotion and protection of all the fundamental rights.

The 2019 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World contains the following chapter on Zimbabwe:

1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: A year and a half after the 2018 elections, the government has shown little appetite to undertake political and economic reforms. Moreover, the authorities’ recourse to security forces repression and the subsequent shrinking of democratic space and rampant corruption and mismanagement led to a serious deterioration of all socio-economic and humanitarian indicators.

Since January 2019, there has been a sharp increase in reported human rights violations. Beyond a series of intimidations against opposition supporters and activists, the year was marked by violent episodes of police brutalities (in January, August and November).

The recommendations issued in the Motlanthe report of the Commission of inquiry to investigate the violence against civilians in the post-election period, which resulted in the death of six people in August 2018, are still to be effectively addressed by the authorities.

Progress is also very slow in addressing the recommendations of the EU Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) and of the other election observation missions that were deployed in the country before 2018 elections.

The human rights situation is further worsened by the ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis that resulted in a massive decrease of access to basic services for the population and is further worsening the situation of the most vulnerable communities.

2. EU action – key focus areas: In 2019, EU priorities in the area of human rights and democracy continued to target both institutions and civil society organisations engaged in the implementation of the 2013 Constitution.

On 17 January 2019, the HR/VP Spokesperson issued a statement condemning the deadly violence further to a series of demonstrations against an increase in the price of fuel. It also voiced concerns over the internet shutdown that followed these police brutality episodes.

Similarly, on 14 February 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution (2019/2563) condemning the violent crackdown by security forces on demonstrators, civil society, opposition members and trade unionists following the decision to increase the price of fuel by over 150%.

On 7 June 2019, the EU delegation released a press statement condemning the abduction and abuse of rural teachers’ union president Mr. Obert Masaraure in Harare on 6 June.

On 20 August 2019, the EU delegation, the Heads of Mission of France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and the Heads of Mission of Australia, Canada and the USA issued a joint local statement on respect for human rights and freedom of assembly further to intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders, trade union and civil society representatives, and opposition politicians – prior to, during and following a demonstration in Harare on 16 August.

3. EU bilateral political engagement: The launch of a regular and official political dialogue (held on 5 June and 21 November) paved the way for a normalised high-level exchange on human rights and democracy priorities.

Issues raised by the EU side were the implementation of the constitutional and legislative framework, respect and promotion of fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of the media, putting an end to police brutality and addressing the impunity gap, the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, and the prompt and effective implementation of the EU EOM recommendations.

The progress of Zimbabwe’s accession to international instruments was also raised.

4. EU financial engagement: Throughout 2019, the EU continued to provide support through projects funded under the European Development Fund (EDF), the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP).

The portfolio includes thirty-four projects, for an overall planned amount of EUR 37 million: 11 projects focus on civil and political rights and have been developed in partnership with local and international organisms such as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network or the IOM.

Simultaneously, eight projects focused on the reinforcement of democratic institutions and 15 projects were implemented in the areas of civil society support, citizen participation and peace and reconciliation.

Ongoing contracts under the EIDHR amount to EUR 1,950,000 and target mainly constitutionalism and protection of human rights, including of people with disability.

The EU, in partnership with the UN agencies (UNDP, UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, ILO and UNESCO) and the Government of Zimbabwe launched the Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women and girls. An amount of EUR 18.4 million has been allocated to the initiative.

5. Multilateral context: A voluntary mid-term report of the Universal Periodic Review to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council was issued in October 2019.

Yet, the report shows that Zimbabwe falls short in terms of effective protection and promotion of human rights and democratic principles. The large majority of the 154 out of 263 recommendations supported by the Government of Zimbabwe are still to be effectively addressed.

Little progress was made on the accession to international instruments, despite expectations (e.g.: abolition of death penalty) and government self-declared priorities (e.g.: Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance).

In March 2019, the parliament approved the AU African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, paving the way for the government to complete the process of Zimbabwe’s becoming bound by the Charter under international law. The ratification process (president’s assent) remains ongoing.

The original report is here


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