Zimbabwe urged to respect fundamental freedoms in run-up to constitutional referendum: UN rights expertsListen /
The Government of Zimbabwe has been urged to respect international human rights norms and standards pertaining to freedoms of association, of peaceful assembly and of expression in the run up to the constitutional referendum on 16 March and subsequent elections which may take place next July.
The call comes from three United Nations international human rights experts who noted that as Zimbabwe is entering a critical electoral period, they have received increasing numbers of reports about acts of intimidation and harassment, physical violence and arrests against civil society actors, mostly working on human rights issues.
The expert on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, says "In the context of proposed constitutional reforms and the elections, it is disturbing and shocking to learn that civil society organizations that have been operating for years, including election monitoring groups which aim to promote free and fair elections, have been searched by police".
For several months, a number of civil society organizations have been subjected to searches by police. During these searches, several items, including files with donor information, annual reports and human rights documents, have been seized.
The experts also voiced their concern at the police's use of force against, and arrests of, peaceful protesters taking part, and handing out roses and teddy bears, in an annual Valentine's Day protest outside Parliament in Harare on 14 February 2013.
Donn Bobb, United Nations.