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African Union Slams Zimbabwe Human Rights Record


The African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights has passed a resolution highly critical of the Zimbabwean government's human rights record and what it says is its lack of respect for the rule of law.

The African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights resolution condemns what it calls continuing human rights violations and the deterioration of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, the lack of respect for the rule of law, and the growing culture of impunity.

The resolution also calls on the government of Zimbabwe to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of expression, association, and assembly by repealing or amending repressive legislation, such as the much-criticized media and security laws. It also urges the government to uphold the principle of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.

The government of Zimbabwe is also called upon to implement the recommendations in a July 2005 report of a U.N. special envoy. The report followed an investigation into the government's wholesale demolition of unauthorized residential structures and informal businesses.

Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka said the exercise, called by the government "Operation Drive Out the Filth," affected 700,000 poor Zimbabweans directly and thousands of others indirectly.

An African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights envoy sent to Zimbabwe on a fact-finding mission at the same time as Mrs. Tibaijuka left the country empty-handed. The government said his visit was "unprocedural" and refused to facilitate his mission.

The resolution calls for the government to allow a fact-finding mission to investigate the current situation of internally-displaced people in Zimbabwe.

This is not the first time Zimbabwe has been criticized by the pan-African body. After a visit to Zimbabwe in 2002, an African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights team produced a report highly critical of the human rights situation in the country. The government of Zimbabwe condemned the report and has not responded to it.

African leaders have been accused of not condemning human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, but Jacob Mafume, a lawyer and the coordinator of the activist group the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition says the African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights is representative of African governments.

"The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is an African Union body," he said. "It is a group of experts that have been mandated and identified by the African leaders as people with integrity who can make pronouncements on issues of human rights. It is ordinarily the view of the African leaders that the findings of the African commission are indeed their own and they routinely adopt the resolutions of the commission and seek member nations to try and rectify any problems that will have been identified."

Mr. Mafume said the Zimbabwe government, which has in the past accused the west of demonizing it for its land reform program that saw white commercial farmers losing their land for the re-settlement of landless blacks, will find it difficult to dismiss a resolution by fellow African leaders. Attempts by VOA to get comment from the Zimbabwe government were unsuccessful.