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Published: September 15, 2010
Harare(ZimEye)-The Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai led MDC party and Human rights organizations said they are strongly opposed to the Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa proposed human rights bill which he said is not going to empower the Human rights commission to investigate human rights abuses that occurred before the formation of the inclusive government.
Chinamasa on Monday announced that the Human Rights Commission whose bill he was drafting will not power the Human rights commission to investigate human rights violations that were committed before the formation of the inclusive government. MDC-T deputy spokesperson Thabitha Khumalo said her party was going to fight for the total rejection of Chinamasa’s unilaterally proposed human rights bill when the parliament re-opens.
Said Thabitha Khumalo:
“People were massacred since 1980 and today we are talking of ignoring to investigate such atrocities. Violence is violence regardless of when it started, and if us Zimbabweans are going to sit and let ZANU-PF talk of its investigations after elections we are basically doing nothing. Believe you me, when parliament’s re-opens I will make it a point. If it costs me even my seat I do not mind I will remain defending that position because it’s unacceptable”, she told people witnessing the commemoration of the second anniversary of the GPA organized by the Civic society Monitoring Mechanism in Harare Tuesday evening.
At the same occasion, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition senior programs officer Nixon Nyikadzino said Chinamasa was trying to protect his party members who had been abusing human rights over the past 30 years.
“People should remember that Chinamasa as a senior member of ZANU-PF has skeletons to deal with. He was also to a certain extent allegedly involved in this particular level of violations; so are some of his party senior officials. So it will be difficult and unreasonable for him to usher in parliament a bill that incriminates him. So it’s both a personal and party position to protect what they did over the past
30 years they have been in power. Nyikadzino said his organization was going to mobilise other likeminded organizations and force for the rejection of the Chinamasa draft.
“When we look at violence, the main period is that of the Gukurahundi and the 2000, 2002, and the 2008 politically motivated violence and these are the most critical periods. Everyone would agree that it is because of these periods which motivated the institution of the Human Rights commission by the inclusive government under the instructions of SADC and African Union, “he said.
A Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights official who refused to be named because he is not authorized to talk to the media said his organization was going to join hands with Crisis in Zimbabwe coalition to denounce the formation of a toothless Human rights commission.
“Its unfortunate that Chinamasa has decided to exclude the civic society in consulting how the Human rights bill should look like, and as an organization which has been representing and defending victims of violence we are not going to sit, relax and watch politicians ignore those critical areas, “ said the official.
The eight member Human Rights Commission, which was sworn in March is chaired by Professor Reg Austin, a lawyer, former Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Zimbabwe and former head of Commonwealth Secretariat’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Division.
Professor Austin has been under pressure from Human rights groups who have been demanding that it should investigate all human rights violations back dating from the early 1980s.
These human rights watchdogs say the Human rights commission should be given powers to try and convict anyone found guilty of human rights violations, which occurred in the country over the past 30 years.
People from Matabeleland are also demanding that Zanu (PF) senior officials who spearheaded the Gukurahundi atrocities which led to the death of thousands of the Ndebele tribe, should be investigated.
Victims of the June 27 bloody presidential runoff elections are calling for the much awaited Human rights Commission to bring to book Zanu (PF) militia and state security agents who butchered their families and friends in 2008.
Chinamasa said his office had finished working on the draft Human rights bill which will be tabled before parliament for endorsement when it re-opens in October.
According to the Global Political Agreement signed between the two MDC formations and Zanu (PF) to form the inclusive government, the Human rights Commission will be responsible for the promotion and creation of awareness of and respect for human rights and freedoms at all levels of society.
It should also recommend to Parliament effective measures to promote human rights and freedoms, and investigate the conduct of any authority or person, where it is alleged that any of the rights in the Declaration of Rights has been violated by that authority or person.
“This commission when operational will not have powers to investigate alleged human rights violations that happened before the enactment of the amendment number 19, unless such violations have continued after the amendment 19. Anything that happened before that period, it has no powers to investigate,“ Chinamasa told journalists in Harare on Monday. (ZimEye, Zimbabwe)