Freedom House Welcomes Long-Needed Visit to Zimbabwe by UN Human Rights Chief
Freedom House welcomes the timely visit of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to Zimbabwe, the first ever mission by a U.N. human rights chief to the troubled southern African country, and urges her to use this high-profile mission to call attention to ongoing and escalating human rights
Ms. Pillay will arrive in Zimbabwe on May 20 and is scheduled to meet with a range of principal government officials, including President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power for over three decades, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Pillay will assess Zimbabwe’s dire human rights situation and is expected to make several trips outside the capital Harare, including to the Marange diamond fields, a volatile area that has experienced a shocking volume of human rights abuses, some of which have been allegedly carried out at torture camps run by the Zimbabwean military and known associates of President Mugabe.
“With elections likely to occur in the next year, we fear that mass violence will once again dissuade active civic engagement in Zimbabwe and make a mockery of the country’s democratic process,” said Daniel Calingaert, vice president for policy and external affairs at Freedom House. “The days of a singular political party running roughshod over the political sphere and violating human rights with impunity must come to an effective end if Zimbabwe is ever to experience a sustainable peace and a genuine democratic transition.”
Freedom House appeals to the Office of the High Commissioner to:
- Strongly advocate for the immediate enactment of the country’s Human Rights Commission Bill, which has been effectively stalled by ZANU PF intransigence.
- Investigate the alleged military-run torture camps in Marange and make clear that perpetrators should be held accountable for their crimes.
- Actively follow-up on this high profile visit and continue to engage openly with both government officials and key civil society actors in order to prevent the victimization of witnesses and whistleblowers following the U.N.’s departure.
Zimbabwe is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual global survey of political rights and civil liberties. Human rights abuses against civil society activists and perceived opponents of President Mugabe’s ZANU PF party are pervasive and persistent problems in Zimbabwe. The regime has routinely employed violence and intimidation to silence its critics in the political opposition, media, and civil society. The nongovernmental sector in Zimbabwe remains vibrant and resolute, but nongovernmental organizations have faced increasing legal restrictions and extralegal harassment.
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