By: Eronmwon Joyce Irogue
Impunity Watch Staff Writer
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Since the reelection of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa in July 2018, human rights conditions in the country have deteriorated. In September 2019, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association fact-finding mission discovered a “serious deterioration of the political, economic and social environment.” Even after supposed legal reforms, Zimbabwe continues undeterred on its path of human rights violations.
On March 4, 2020, the United States extended its restriction on several senior Zimbabwean government officials for another year. The United States referenced the extant human rights oppression by the government against critics as one of its reasons and urged for a more tenable reform. This extension occurred one month after the European Union commented on the “deteriorating humanitarian crisis” in Zimbabwe.
Human rights violations have allegedly been committed by the Zimbabwean security forces. Specifically, they have used force against peaceful protesters. In August 2018, the security forces used deadly force against post-election protesters where 6 people died and thirty-five were injured. In mid-January 2019, the security forces used brutal force against protesters of the President. There, seventeen people died, seventeen women were raped, eighty-one people were injured, and over a thousand protesters were arrested. After the incident, the government shut down social media and the internet on January 15 and only restored social media and internet access on January 21 after a ruling by the Harare High Court. The Zimbabwean government relies on the authority on “subverting a constitutional government” contained in Section 22, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act to punish individuals suspected of organizing protests.
Zimbabwe remains a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The ability of the human rights conditions in Zimbabwe to continue to deteriorate despite the country’s status as a signatory indicates that these instruments may lack importance in the region. Increased awareness and compliance with these human rights covenants is required if there is to be growth and stability in Zimbabwe and likewise in other African countries. As is apparent from the reports, continuous human rights violations contribute to both economic and political setbacks.
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