HARARE – Activist group United Nations Watch (UNW) has expressed disgust over the hailing of Zimbabwe’s human rights record by “rogue” States — Iran, Venezuela and North Korea.
While the three countries, with controversial governance records, praised Zimbabwe’s “promotion and protection of human rights” at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council meeting last weekend, UNW accuses the southern African nation’s government of partisan application of the law and targeting opposition members and human rights activists with abduction, arrest and torture.
The Council, which reviews all UN members’ human rights records every four years, convened in Geneva, Switzerland, where sharply opposing views of Zimbabwe’s rights record were exposed.
UNW executive director Hillel Neuer said Zimbabwe should cease using harassment, detention and arrest as tactics to silence human rights activists.
He said country’s security forces and judiciary must also stop being partisan.
Zimbabwe’s special envoy to the Geneva meeting, vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, said President Robert Mugabe’s government was totally committed to the protection and respect of human rights, as enshrined in the country’s Constitution.
He said some of the accusations levelled against Zimbabwe were “based on misunderstandings and prejudices.”
Zimbabwe’s legal framework prohibits torture and the infliction of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, Mnangagwa said, adding that a tropical storm which claimed lives and destroyed crops and infrastructure could hobble government’s efforts to ensure access to some rights by citizens.
He also blamed “illegal” Western sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe for stifling government efforts at defending and promoting some rights.
Kim Jong-un’s North Korea asked about the impact of Western sanctions on Zimbabwe’s enjoyment of human rights.
Violent land seizures, along with allegations of vote-rigging and rights abuses — all denied by Mugabe’s administration — led to the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe by Western powers.
Dictator Bashar al-Assad’s Syria — where a civil war has been raging for six years — welcomed the commitment by Zimbabwe to accord priority to the development of human rights, while Vladimir Putin’s Russia noted the improvement the African nation’s legislative framework.
The Islamic Republic of Iran noted Zimbabwe’s adoption of a new Constitution in 2013.
Turkey appreciated the legislative improvements here in protecting human rights.
Sudan commended Harare for its positive engagement with this council’s universal periodic review.
Zimbabwe’s independent human rights advocates did not support the country’s rosy human rights report.
Echoing concerns voiced by local rights groups, Neuer protested that the council was turning into an “abuser solidarity” group and instead of human rights scrutiny, no less than 70 percent of the country statements offered praise for the Zimbabwe government.
“ . . . the truth is the opposite . . . victims of human rights abuse object to the adoption of this (Zimbabwe) report,” he said.
“Human rights advocates object to this report filled with praise, because Zimbabwe restricts freedoms of expression, press, assembly, association, and movement.”
“The government evicts citizens, invades farms and private businesses and properties, and demolishes informal marketplaces. The government interferes with the judiciary; and fails to investigate or prosecute state security or Zanu PF supporters responsible for violence.”
Neuer added: “ . . . President (UN Human Rights Council president Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli), for all of these reasons, let me be absolutely clear: human rights advocates and the victims of Zimbabwe’s human rights abuse object to the adoption of this report.”