With just weeks to go before a watershed election, a political atmosphere of intimidation and violence has taken hold in Zimbabwe. Rather than promoting an environment in which civic participation and political tolerance are encouraged, the government of Zimbabwe has engaged in a systematic crackdown on civil society and the human rights community, including arbitrary detention of activists and opposition supporters, and widespread violations against freedom of expression and access to information.
These are the findings of a report released today by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) entitled, “A Promise in Peril: How Widespread Rights Violations Undermine Zimbabwe’s Elections.” The report comes one month before Zimbabwe’s July 31 election, and presents findings that were collected during an international delegation organized by the RFK Center in March 2013.
“The routine intimidation, harassment, and arbitrary criminal prosecutions of human rights defenders, lawyers, and political activists in Zimbabwe threaten the rights of all citizens to participate freely in public affairs,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center. “With an election upcoming, the government must ensure an electoral environment that is consistent with international standards.”
“These ongoing human rights violations set the stage for the type of violence and chaos that has marred past elections in Zimbabwe. State authorities have engaged in a pattern of suppression that specifically targets groups engaged in voter registration, education, and mobilization initiatives,” said Santiago A. Canton, Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights. “This behavior is unacceptable and represents clear breaches of domestic and international law.”
In the report, the RFK Center urges the government of Zimbabwe—which is largely dominated by President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front—to immediately cease the continued harassment, intimidation, and violence perpetrated against civic actors. The report also encourages the government to respect international legal conventions to which Zimbabwe is a party or state signatory, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa.