Today: 10 December 2019 the world commemorates the International Human Rights Day. The International Human Rights Day marks the 61st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the Declaration) in 1948.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the world in commemorating this day. The Forum recognises this ground-breaking Declaration in the history of human rights globally.
Zimbabwe has embraced the Declaration by incorporating its provisions in its Constitution, expounded under the Bill of Rights.
The 2019 commemorations are being held under the global theme, Youth Standing Up for Human Rights.
The United Nations in coming up with this theme aims to celebrate facilitating sustainable development, amplify their voices, and engage a broad range of global audiences in the promotion and protection of rights.
It is within that context that the Forum takes time to reflect on the state of human rights in Zimbabwe in 2019 and how it has advanced the tenets of the Declaration as it commemorates this day.
The Forum laments that we are commemorating the coming into effect of this milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being, against a background of a deteriorating political, economic and social environment in Zimbabwe.
The Forum notes with concern the economic crisis that has resulted in the erosion of disposable income and unemployment resulting in widespread poverty primarily because of poor governance, pervasive corruption and mismanagement of funds.
This has manifested in; a crippling industrial action by healthcare personnel in state medical facilities, currently ongoing across the country; continuous surging of prices of foodstuffs; shortages of clean water; and the right to education has also been severely affected.
The Forum is particularly concerned by the lack of urgency on the part of the government to resolve the economic crisis, contrary to the spirit of the Declaration we are commemorating today.
It is regrettable that while all this has been happening, the government instead has increased suppression of rights and freedoms.
In particular, the freedom of expression, assembly, association and the freedom to demonstrate and petitions are severely curtailed.
During the year the Forum recorded an increase in levels of violence and brutality especially against known and or perceived protestors and human rights, defenders.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of peaceful Assembly and Association, in his preliminary findings following his mission to Zimbabwe in September, notes that:
“The restrictions ….range from very subtle forms of interference to threats issued by public authorities to suppress protests and dissent, to the use of the judicial system to impose unlawful charges…. the use of disproportionate and excessive force resulting in massive violations against protestors. I have also heard of numerous cases of arbitrary detentions, cases of injury, torture and even the loss of innocent lives.”
The Forum notes with concern the growing impunity and disregard for the rule of law by government institutions whose mandate is to serve and protect the citizens of Zimbabwe.
In particular that it has been almost a year since the release of the findings from the Commission of Inquiry into the August 1 post-election shootings and the recommendations which include prosecution of the police and military officers responsible for the shootings are yet to be implemented.
Instead, there has been an escalation in the brutality by the same security institutions on protestors and innocent civilians.
In light of this depressing state of affairs, we also take this opportunity to call for tolerance and accelerate this Campaign running under the theme Tolerance Matters as we commemorate this day.
The Tolerance Matters Campaign seeks to promote a culture of respect for one another and appreciation of diversity and inclusion.
To foster a lasting culture of human rights espoused in constitutionalism, the starting point is tolerance within the citizenry and appreciation that rights come with responsibilities.
We believe a tolerant society is a foundational basis for the full enjoyment of the rights established by the Declaration and guaranteed by the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
As we commemorate the International Human Rights Day, the Forum calls upon the government to embrace the tenets and spirit of the Declaration and fully respect, protect and fulfil all human rights of all its citizens and in particular to:
To take urgent measures to resolve the ongoing socio-economic challenges that have eroded the dignity of the people.
To take urgent and progressive measures to address the ongoing crisis in service delivery and in particular to stop victimising and firing medical doctors for exercising their labour rights and urgently resolve the concerns of medical doctors in order to resuscitate the failing health delivery system.
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