The government has dismally failed to defend the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, a recent United Nations (UN) Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Zimbabwe has revealed.
This follows a 12 January 2022 resolution by the Human Rights Council to select Armenia, Luxembourg, and Namibia (troika) to facilitate the review of Zimbabwe.
According to the report, a list of questions prepared in advance by Belgium, Germany, Liechtenstein, Panama, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America was transmitted to Zimbabwe through the troika.
The questions bordered around judicial independence, forced abductions and disappearances, and the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill, among others.
On disappearances, the government said the police continued to provide fortnightly reports on the continuing investigation into the disappearance of Itai Dzamara, in compliance with a 2018 High Court order.
“The police were also investigating the disappearances of Patrick Nabanyama and Paul Chizuze,” reads the report.
“In response to questions submitted in advance, the delegation stated that judicial independence was respected and safeguarded. The Constitution provided for a clear separation of powers between the three arms of the State. It also provided for an independent Judicial Service Commission. The recruitment and appointment of judges were based on merit and done through public interviews conducted by the Commission.”
The government said there was no basis for suggesting that it had exerted influence over the courts in order to weaken opposition political parties by allowing the recall of their elected members of Parliament and councillors.
“The process of recalling members of Parliament and councillors had been initiated by the opposition parties when they had approached the courts for a ruling on their internal disputes,” says the report.
The government claimed the PVO Bill sought to address deficiencies in the mechanisms for countering money-laundering and the financing of terrorism that had been identified in the 2016 mutual evaluation report on Zimbabwe, which had resulted in Zimbabwe being grey-listed by the Financial Action Task Force.
“The proposed amendments merely sought to ensure greater transparency and consistency in the registration and regulation of private voluntary organizations and were the product of extensive research and multi-stakeholder consultations,” the government defended itself.
The report further reads: “Other investigations too were yet to be finalized because of their complexity. One such investigation related to the case of the pre-election attempted assassination of the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa.”
However, during the interactive dialogue, France stated that the human rights situation in Zimbabwe remained worrying while Germany expressed concern about arbitrary arrests and the prosecution of members of opposition political parties and civil society activists.
The Netherlands expressed concern about legislative amendments that would curtail civic space while the UK expressed concern on freedom of assembly restrictions, harassment of journalists, members of the opposition, and civil society actors, and constitutional amendments that risked reducing judicial independence.
“The United States of America expressed concern that COVID-19 regulations had been used to justify restrictions on citizens’ right to vote and their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association,” further says the report.