28th February 2013
Three independent human rights experts have expressed alarm that the increase in attacks against civil society in Zimbabwe coincided with the announcement that March 16th was the date for the referendum on the constitution.
The three are United Nations Special Rapporteurs and they have urged Zimbabwe’s government to respect international human rights norms, including freedom of expression and association and that of peaceful assembly.
They said that had received increasing numbers of reports of intimidation, violence and arrests, particularly against civil society and those working on human rights issues.
“In the context of proposed constitutional reforms and the elections, it is disturbing and shocking to learn that civil society organizations that have been operating for years, including election monitoring groups which aim to promote free and fair elections, have been searched by police,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai.
The experts also expressed their concern at the use of force by police and the arrests of peaceful protestors, such as the WOZA members who were arrested and beaten on Valentine’s Day.
The rapporteurs said: “We urge the authorities to take all relevant measures to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, in view of the recurrence of acts of intimidation and harassment against those exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, which are essential components of democracy.” They added: “We stand ready to provide any assistance to contribute to the protection of fundamental freedoms in Zimbabwe, including through a country visit.”
In the past decade there have been numerous calls from experts around the world, urging the government to abide by the rule of law. These calls are ignored.
Unless real pressure is applied to the government, that situation is not going to change.