On International Day of Democracy, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) urges government to adopt and implement measures that are legal, proportionate and respect basic principles of democracy in its battle to combat the spread of coronavirus.
The significance of International Day of Democracy is to provide an opportunity for people to participate in democracy as a way to promote and protect democratic principles.
Commemorated annually on 15 September, International Day of Democracy, which is being commemorated under the theme "COVID-19: A Spotlight on Democracy," is celebrated to highlight the values of freedom and respect for human rights as essential pre-conditions for democracy.
This year's theme is critical in that it puts a spotlight on democracy at a time when the world is battling to contain the spread of Coronavirus. This puts critical focus on how governments across the world are adhering to the essential elements of democracy which include freedom, respect for human rights, and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage.
Across the world, democracy is facing challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic. While the world is confronted with combating the coronavirus pandemic, upholding principles of democracy should never be abdicated as it is crucial in ensuring the free flow of information and access to information, participation in decision-making, accountability and respect for fundamental freedoms.
Whereas democracy provides the natural environment for the protection and effective realisation of human rights and is a fundamental building block for peace and sustainable development, in Zimbabwe, it is perturbing that government has been at the forefront of leading the onslaught of eroding enjoyment and exercise of fundamental freedoms and rights through arrests, prosecution, abductions, persecution of human rights defenders including lawyers, journalists and ordinary citizens and those perceived to be enemies of government.
More worrying is government's reluctance to ensure that the African Charter on Democracy and Good Governance which it signed on 28 March 2018 becomes binding and is incorporated to become part of domestic law so as to promote democracy, good governance practice and a robust electoral practice.
It is critical that government exhibits transparency, is responsive and accountable in all its responses to combating coronavirus including enforcement of national lockdown measures to ensure that any emergency measures are legal, proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory and above respect human rights and the rule of law.
As we put a spotlight on democracy during COVID-19, ZLHR calls upon;
Law enforcement agents to exercise due respect and restraint in enforcing national lockdown measures.
Government to speed up alignment of laws with the Constitution and ensure adherence to principles of democracy and constitutionalism.
Government to implement legal and administrative reforms to create a conducive environment that guarantees the respect and enjoyment of democracy and fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Government to ratify and domesticate the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance.
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights