The United Nations Human Rights Office (UNHR) says it is “concerned” by a recent Human Rights Watch report that says Zimbabwe’s government is using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to suppress freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly and association.
Marta Hurtado, UNHR spokesperson, said the agency is encouraging President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to engage all stakeholders to find sustainable solutions to grievances while ensuring that people’s rights and freedoms are protected in accordance with Zimbabwe’s human rights obligations. Hurtado said:
We are indeed concerned at allegations that suggest that the Zimbabwean authorities may be using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to clamp down on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Merely calling for a peaceful protest or participating in a peaceful protest are an exercise of recognized human rights. An example of intimidation is the repeated arbitrary arrest and detention of three members of the main opposition party for taking part in a protest.
The UN was apparently referring to the arrest of three MDC Alliance members, Joana Mamombe, Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri.
The UN speaks after the HRW released a report o Thursday chronicling how 23 African governments are using the COVID-19 pandemic to clamp down on freedom of the media and of assembly.
On Wednesday, Elasto Mugwadi, the head of the government-affiliated Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, confirmed to VOA that his organization had received complaints of abuses raised in the HRW report.