Statement to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at the 65th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights under Agenda Item 4e   21 October-10 November 2019   Statement on the Overall Human Rights Situation in Zimbabwe Honorable Chairperson, Commissioners; Heads of Government; civil society representatives; ladies and gentlemen. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) welcomes the opportunity to address you on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe at a time when Zimbabwe is on the Commission Agenda. The human rights situation in Zimbabwe has continued to deteriorate since the last inter session. Honourable chairperson, we are presenting this statement against the background of the recent visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom to Peaceful Assembly and Association in September. The Special Rapporteur in his preliminary findings raised concerns over the human rights situation in Zimbabwe that impacts on the enjoyment of freedoms of assembly and association by the citizens. Violations of fundamental rights and freedoms remain worrisome. Systematic targeting of human rights defenders including trade union leaders, artistes perceived to be critical to government and opposition political leaders, through judicial harassment, abductions, torture, hate speech, have been on the increase. Section 22 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on “subverting a constitutional government” has been widely used to persecute human rights defenders, civil society and opposition leaders for exercising their freedoms of assembly and association. The crime is similar to treason and could attract up to 20 years of imprisonment. This year alone, 22 individuals are facing this criminal charge. For example, in May 2019, 7 (seven) HRD were arrested and detained, for attending a workshop in Maldives organised by a Serbian Non-governmental Organisation called Centre for Applied Non-violent Action and Strategies (Canvas). This is a clear sign of criminalisation of human rights activism. This act is not only an affront the Charter but is also contrary to the spirit of the Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all human rights defenders in Africa. Honourable Chairperson, we have also witnessed the failure by the Government of Zimbabwe to guarantee citizens’ right to the security and integrity of person during the inter-session. The Forum is concerned by the surge in abductions and torture cases targeting mainly human rights activists, union leaders and opposition political activists. Since January, at least 67 cases of abductions have been documented.

Select target paragraph3