17 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Human Rights Commission to Protect Zimbabweans

press release

The MDC is in full support of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill which is before Parliament as it will protect the people of Zimbabwe against any form of abuse by the State or political parties, Hon. Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC national spokesperson has said.

Hon. Mwonzora refuted claims that the MDC was sanctioning a Bill that neglected to look at atrocities that took place before 13 February 2009, which is the cut off date for the Commission to investigate human rights abuses.

"As a party, the MDC supports the Bill on the basis that from now henceforth, the Commission will investigate human rights abuses," he said. "This Commission is designed to be forward-looking and it will deal with those human rights abuses that will take place in the future starting from 13 February 2009 which was the inception of the inclusive government.

"There have been accusations that the MDC has agreed to ignore the atrocities that took place during the 1980s - the Gukurahundi - the 2005 Murambatsvina and 2008 political violence by agreeing on a Commission that is forward-looking. That is not the correct position.

"The correct position is that post independence conflicts and human rights abuses are going to be dealt with by the Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Commission that has been established in terms of the new people driven Constitution," said Hon. Mwonzora.

"So up to 13 February 2009, all human rights abuses will be under the jurisdiction of the Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Commission," he said. Hon. Mwonzora said it is judicious for the MDC to agree to the cut off date and allow the Human Rights Commission to concentrate on current and future abuses.

The Human Rights Commission was sworn in, in 2009. The chairperson of the Commission is renowned lawyer, Professor Reg Austin. The Human Rights Commission and the Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Commission will go a long way in helping Zimbabwe's quest to address State-sponsored atrocities.

On her recent visit to Zimbabwe, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said she welcomed that Zimbabwe had established a Human Rights Commission. "I welcome the fact that Zimbabwe has established a Human Rights Commission - type of national institution governed by a rigorous international set of standards - and appointed its members in 2010," said Pillay.

"I strees that this does not mean that past human rights violations such as the devastating large scale killings and other violations in Matebeleland and Midlands in the 1980s, or the 2008 election violence should be swept under the carpet. Far from it.

"There should never be impunity for serious crimes, and justice is essential if peace and stability are to endure," she said.

Hon. Mwonzora said the MDC was also satisfied with the progress on the Electoral Amendment Bill that is before Parliament. "The Electoral Amendment Bill makes far reaching innovations as it allows among other issues election observers, monitors and agents to be present during voting by members of the security forces. Therefore, security forces are going to vote in complete secrecy from their commanders.

"Contesting political parties will have equal access to the media especially in the public media. The Bill also seeks to curtail violence including State sponsored violence.

"The controversial clause on a polling station based voters' roll is only going to govern future elections and not the upcoming harmonised elections which will be ward based.

"The thinking is that the polling station based voting is best when there is no violence," said Hon. Mwonzora.

He said the two Bills before Parliament advanced democracy. "We agree with the Bills as they advance democracy. As a party, we are ready for the elections which we are going to win with a landslide majority of 70 percent," he said.

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