Visiting U.N. Rights Chief Calls for Activation of Zimbabwe’s Rights Commission
Thomas Chiripasi & Tatenda Gumbo
The visiting United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, in Harare to
assess the rights situation, called on authorities Tuesday to ensure the
Human Rights Commission is activated before the next elections.
Addressing journalists after meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai,
Pillay said the commission should be up and running before the nation’s next
polls that President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party want held this
“This commission is very important and is needed to play a role during the
election, and I do appreciate the prime minister’s interest in addressing
that particular issue,” she said.
The commission, which was appointed some time last year, has yet to start
operating because parliament is still discussing the Human Rights Commission
Bill, which will give it powers to investigate rights violations in the
The bill, however, says the new organization cannot deal with past abuses.
Pillay, who also met with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the
parliamentary thematic committee on human rights, said her meeting with Mr.
Tsvangirai also focused on rights violations that occurred in the run-up to
the June 2008 presidential run-off.
Meanwhile, Mr. Tsvangirai said the unity government is doing all it can to
ensure that human rights are promoted and protected, especially during
“I must say we raised a number of issues, we explained the situation in the
country, before the formation of the GNU and after the formation of the
GNU,” said Tsvangirai. “There is nothing to hide but also need to highlight
there has been progress since the formation of the GNU.”
NGO groups that boycotted the parliament meeting, charging that they were
not safe at the August house following the violence that ensued last year
during the Human Rights Bill public hearings, also met Pillay separately.
Director Abel Chikomo of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, said the
organizations that included the National Constitutional Assembly and the
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, managed to present their case to the UN
But before Pillay could even complete her mission, police besieged the
offices of Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum in central Harare looking for
Chikomo who was not present at the time.
VOA could not independently verify why the police were looking for the
Elsewhere, youth organizations have come out against what they say is lack
of transparency in commissioner Pillay’s visit, alleging the government is
micro-managing her activities in the country.
The organizations say government officials should have given them the
opportunity to meet with the rights chief to discuss the situation in the
country, as they see it.
Practical Empowerment and Networking Youth Association director Hillary
Musarurwa says youths in Zimbabwe have continuously been exploited and not
given a proper chance to air their views.
“Its sad that youth have been sidelined once again, yet when politicians
want to carry out their acts of violence they put the youth on the
forefront,” said Musarurwa,
“Its unfortunate when we talk of human rights people look at the political
perspective, but we forget the socio-economic rights which are very
fundamental in the development of young people.”
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