Zimbos must stand up for their rights: ZimRights

ZIMBABWEANS have a duty to restore and sustain a culture of human rights as the ruling Zanu PF government continues to deprive them of civil liberties and govern with an iron fist, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) has said.

The country’s human rights record continues to falter under the second republic with human rights watchdog Amnesty International currently lobbying the African Union (AU) to compel the Zimbabwean government to uphold human rights.

However, in a statement, ZimRights said citizens were the key to fostering a culture of human rights.

“At ZimRights, we have great confidence in the power of communities to lead in creating and sustaining a culture of human rights,” the organisation said in a statement on Sunday.

“Our 2022 State of Peace Report has unpacked the multiple layers of vulnerabilities for the people of Zimbabwe, with many citizens living in a state of perpetual insecurity.”

ZimRights said the insecurity shaped their approach and attitude to participation in social, economic and political life.

“We live in a country where the State has collapsed and, in its place, the party rules through fear and intimidation. Social protection systems have disappeared, and the social service delivery mechanisms have failed,” the rights organisation said.

The latest figures by the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index revealed that Zimbabwe was slowly sliding into a failed State ranking low in the absence of anti-corruption activities, fundamental rights, civil justice and criminal justice factors.

“The recent electoral heist has shown us the determination of politicians to destroy the country for political gain while the election industry, which profits from this perennial meaningless ritual, is equally determined to tick the boxes and look the other side. The people suffer the greatest loss as the bickering continues,” ZimRights said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner of the largely controversial August 23 and 24 polls, which were followed by retributive violence against opposition supporters.

The opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has revealed that at least 1 500 of its supporters have abandoned their homes and are living in safe houses following post-election violence.

Several election observers including the Sadc election observer mission flagged the polls as not credible and failing to meet local, regional and international guidelines on holding free, fair and credible elections.

Meanwhile, human rights lawyers in Zimbabwe have flagged the continued use of the criminal justice system to clamp down on dissent through denial of bail to perceived political opponents.

The lawyers said there was an upsurge in cases of arrests, repeated denial of bail to human rights defenders and prolonged pre-trial incarceration.

In a report released last Friday by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum titled Trial by Pretrial Incarceration: Detention without Trial and Delayed Trials in Zimbabwe, the lawyers said failure to issue bail in deserving cases and commence timeous trial proceedings, in several high-profile political cases was a cause for concern.

The lawyers said the justice system was being used as a tool to directly intimidate and close off the constitutionally guaranteed rights of arrested and detained persons.

“The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) has identified a disturbing pattern of manipulation of the criminal justice system by State personnel to intimidate and punish perceived voices of dissent,” the report said.

“This is achieved through denial of bail in deserving political cases or prolonged pre-trial incarceration.”

The rights defenders accused the State of abusing the procedures of detention of accused persons before trial.

“This method involves repeatedly denying the arrested person bail and stalling the process of commencing a trial. As a result, the arrested person stays in detention for a prolonged period, which itself gives the semblance of them already serving time in detention.”

Several opposition figures who include Fadzayi Mahere, Godfrey Sithole, Johanna Mamombe, Netsai Marova, Cecilia Chimbiri, Job Sikhala and Jacob Ngarivhume, among others, have endured lengthy incarcerations after having been denied bail at the courts.

“There was also observation of the trend spilling over to affect not only opposition political actors and activists, but this method of denial of bail and prolonged pre-trial detention was used to punish perceived sympathisers of the opposition political party,” the rights defenders said.

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