Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating Human Rights Day, a day that is observed every year on the 10th of December. In 1950, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day to ensure that the rights of every human across the globe are protected and respected.
The commemorations for this year are running under the theme, “Recover Better-Stand Up for Human Rights”. The theme is a clarion call by the United Nations on the need that during the COVID 19 pandemic, human rights must be prioritised as being central to recovery efforts. The COVID 19 pandemic has seen governments across the globe instituting strict measures to help contain the pandemic. For Zimbabwe however, human rights violations especially by the state have escalated under the COVID 19 induced lockdown. During the first lockdown early in the year, Heal Zimbabwe recorded twenty seven cases of human rights violations perpetrated by members of the security services. These cases were recorded in Masvingo, Harare, Gweru, Zvishavane, Buhera, Banket, Norton, Mberengwa, Shamva, Gutu and Zaka. In all the cases reported, members of the security services (mostly soldiers and police officers) assaulted citizens for allegedly violating lockdown measures. The country has also witnessed a series of arbitrary arrests. A case in point was the arrest of journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono on 20 July 2020.His crime was exposing state corruption and demanding transparency and accountability in the administration of public funds. During the year also, Transform Zimbabwe President, Jacob Ngarivhume was arrested for organising a peaceful demonstration against corruption in July 2020.Heal Zimbabwe views such an arrest as a gross human rights violation as it infringes on the right to petition and demonstrate that is enshrined in Section 59 of the constitution.
The occasion of this years’ commemorations 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. This is aptly demonstrated by the heavy handedness of members of the security services during peaceful demonstrations organised by 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 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. As a member of the United Nations, the government must also adhere and respect international human rights practices such as freedom to demonstrate, petition and freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Independent Commissions mandated to safeguard human rights such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) must be adequately resourced and allowed to carry out their obligations without political interference.