Zim human rights issues perturb US government

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Relations between President Mnangagwa's administration and the US government remain strained over human rights issues
Relations between President Mnangagwa's administration and the US government remain strained over human rights issues

Sydney Kawadza

The US has once again raised grave concern over government’s failure to investigate officials who have committed human rights abuses adding that impunity has remained a problem in Zimbabwe.

In the 2020 Human Rights Report on Zimbabwe, the US State Department said although there were some incremental improvements from past elections, there were serious concerns noted by observers.

The observers, according to State Department, called for further reforms necessary to meet regional and international standards for democratic elections.

“Numerous factors contributed to a flawed overall election process, including: the Zimbabwe Election Commission’s lack of independence; heavily biased state media favoring the ruling party; voter intimidation and unconstitutional influence of tribal leaders.

“[There was also] disenfranchisement of alien and diaspora voters; failure to provide a preliminary voters roll in electronic format; politicization of food aid; security services’ excessive use of force; and lack of precision and transparency around the release of election results.”

The report further stated that although the ZRP are officially under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, the Office of the President directed some police roles and missions in response to civil unrest.

In Zimbabwe, the police is responsible for internal security and the report indicates that while the military is responsible for external security it also has some domestic security responsibilities.

The Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force constitute the Zimbabwe Defense Forces and report to the Minister of Defense and War Veterans Affairs while the Central Intelligence Organization, under the Office of the President, engages in both internal and external security matters.

“Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces committed numerous abuses,” the US reports said.

Human rights issues, according to the State Department, includes unlawful or arbitrary killings of civilians by security forces; torture and arbitrary detention by security forces; cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Other issues under the human rights are harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners or detainees; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy and serious problems with the independence of the judiciary.

Serious government restrictions on free expression, press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, site blocking, and the existence of criminal libel laws also make up the list.

It also includes substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement; restrictions on political participation and widespread acts of corruption.

The report also states other human rights issues such as lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting women and girls, and the existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although not enforced.

“Impunity remained a problem. The government took very few steps to identify or investigate officials who committed human rights abuses, and there were no reported arrests or prosecutions of such persons,” the US Department.

The US and European Union early this year extended sanctions against Zimbabwe over human rights abuses although President Mnangagwa has indicated that his government would continue engaging the former in a bid to improve relations.

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