| Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Human Rights Day, a day that is observed every year on the 10th of December. The day is historic in that it is the day that the United Nations General Assembly, adopted in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, creed, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. |
The theme for this year, “Youth Standing up for Human Rights” is a clarion call for young people across the world to stand up against racism, political violence, hate speech and discrimination. The theme also acknowledges the important role played by youth in influencing decisions that impact their lives through participation and demanding prevalence of peace in their localities. The commemoration for this special day come at a time when Zimbabwe has criminalized the right to demonstrate that is enshrined in section 59 of the constitution. Added to this, the worsening economic crisis has also retarded economic growth, crippled social services and made life difficult for the ordinary citizen. To express displeasure over the worsening economic environment, citizens have resorted to expressing peaceful demonstrations. The state in total disregard of the constitution has responded by instituting violent clampdowns against demonstrators and conducting a series of dragnet arrests that are meant to silence citizens and close democratic space. Recently, police used brute force to disperse citizens who had gathered for a scheduled Hope of the Nation Address by MDC Alliance President; Nelson Chamisa. Earlier in the year, in January 2019 members of the security services went on a rampage conducting a series of targeted abductions on activists and using violence to crush peaceful demonstrations. They repeated the same violence against protestors during a peaceful demonstration in August 2019.The health crisis currently bedeviling the nation has made it difficult for citizens to enjoy universal human rights such as the right to basic health care that are well provided for in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights among others.
The occasion of this years’ commemoration are also taking place at a time when the state has all but demonstrated how it has negated its international obligations to respect and uphold fundamental human rights and freedoms of its citizens. Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states that “Human Beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right”. The right to life is inalienable and is a fundamental human right that must be enjoyed and celebrated by everyone. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. The enjoyment of these rights by citizens in Zimbabwe remains elusive.
International Human Rights Day must serve as a reminder to the Zimbabwe on the need to demonstrate political will by creating an environment where justice, peace and fundamental human rights and freedoms are enjoyed by all without bias or favour. Some of the steps that the state must take include dealing with past episodes of state sponsored violence such as Gukurahundi and 2008 violence. Further to this, government must also set up an independent complaints mechanism in compliance with section 210 of the constitution to allow members of the public to report misconduct on the part of members of the security services.