ZimRights Statement on Africa Human Rights Day

ZimRights Statement on Africa Human Rights Day

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) joins the African continent and the rest of the world in commemorating the Africa Human Rights Day. The Africa Human Rights Day is observed every year on the 21st of October following the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the founding treaty of the African Human Rights System, on 21 October 1981.

As we commemorate this year’s Africa Human Rights Day, we reflect in a sombre manner as we mourn the death of human rights in Africa. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights has been ratified by 54 countries, yet human rights in Africa continue to be shredded with impunity.

ZimRights laments the lack of political will to follow the African Charter, in letter and in spirit, by most African states and Zimbabwe, a signatory to the charter, has been witnessing a sustained deterioration of human rights.

ZimRights’ State of Peace Report 2022 offers insights into how the prevalent human rights violations have contributed to negative peace in Zimbabwe. Arrests of dissenting voices, criminalization of the freedom of expression and of association, abductions, assaults and politically motivated killings have littered the Zimbabwean human rights landscape. The recently held elections have also been a vehicle for more human rights violations – a factor which has been flagged out by several observer missions including the AU-COMESA EOM and the SADC EOM.

ZimRights is also concerned with the lack of accountability to the African Charter by member states, a factor that has reduced the Charter to mere a paper tiger. A 2020 resolution, resolution 443 expressed the ACHPR’s concern and condemnation of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and, among other things, called on the government of Zimbabwe to;

Ensure that measures taken by its law enforcement agents do not lead to violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, including expression, association and assembly. Guarantee at all times the right to fair trial of all detained persons, in compliance with international fair trial standards and as stipulated in the Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa. Guarantee protection of the rights of human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, healthcare workers and other peaceful protestors, including from arbitrary arrest and detention. Provide redress to victims of human rights violations, including torture, rape and physical assault. The resolution also calls on non-state actors, particularly leaders and members of opposition parties, other stakeholders and the general population, to refrain from incitement and all acts of violence.

Two years later, Zimbabweans are still saddled with the same violations.  This lack of accountability is also reflected in the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry onto the August 1 2018 shootings, where armed Zimbabwe National Army soldiers shot and killed 6 civilians and injured dozens of others. The recommendations in the commission’s report have been largely ignored, and up today the perpetrators have not been brought to book.  Human rights violations seem to be tacitly glorified while human rights are being relegated to the dustbin.

ZimRights takes this opportunity, as we commemorate the Africa Human Rights Day, to request a sobre reflection of why human rights are important and why they should be held in sanctity.

African governments should respect the spirit within which the ACHPR was couched as a way towards a prosperous and cohesive Africa. African States should hold each other accountable when it comes to human rights.

ZimRights encourages the people of Zimbabwe and of Africa not to tire as they push for a decent life through respect and promotion of human rights. The struggle to secure and protect basic human rights for all individuals will not come on a silver platter, but will require authentic and transformative activism, advocacy, and collective action in addressing human rights violations.

Happy Africa Human Rights Day Zimbabwe.
Happy Africa Human Rights Day Africa.
We are the People.

Issued by the ZimRights Information Department