The United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, who was in Zimbabwe from 17 September to today said the government should allow public and peaceful assemblies because they are a “release valve” to avoid recourse to other means of dissent and disagreement that can be harmful to society.
In his end of mission statement, Voule said that the right to peacefully assemble is a basic pillar in any democracy and should not be negated and feared.
“On the contrary, it should be allowed and encouraged as its intrinsic value is to allow individuals and groups to express aspirations and concerns publicly,” he said.
“It is in the interests of the State to allow public and peaceful assemblies as a ‘release valve’ in order to avoid recourse to other means of dissent and disagreement that are not desirable and can be harmful to society as a whole.
“It is a right and one that the State has the obligation to enable and protect.”
Voule said that the 2013 Constitution provided a sound and robust basis for the protection of human rights and it is important to acknowledge progress in the setting up of several independent commissions.
“I lament the loss of lives due to excessive use of force against protestors and urge the government to ensure a thorough and independent investigation of these events and the prosecution of those responsible,” he said.
“The repression of protestors, the attempt to ban protests, the excessive use of force and the restrictive application of legislation regulating the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and association gravely overshadow efforts to democratically transform Zimbabwe.
“I urge the government to amend laws that are not in line with the Constitution and make use of the independent institutions which are designed to facilitate the exercise of human rights and the courts, in order to ensure that all human rights are enjoyed by all those under its jurisdiction.
“I recommend that the government take steps to identify gaps in legislation which may allow for its discriminatory use, and make concerted efforts to close these gaps. In these processes, I strongly call for a close consultation with civil society organizations and encourage them to actively engage and participate.
“The government has the momentous task of redressing and solving the long and grave economic crisis afflicting Zimbabwe. In order to be able to find durable solutions that protect the most vulnerable, the government of Zimbabwe is going to need the support and assistance of the international community. It is important for all actors to join forces to assist in this effort.
“In such a context, the government must protect its citizens’ rights to organize and to assemble. The Government’s role is to enable the free expression different views. The government must strengthen good practices that enhance dialogue, that allow for democratic expression and organization and respond to the grievances of the people. Such an approach will help enable a solution to the crisis, with the participation of the citizens of Zimbabwe.
“It is furthermore important that the government acts to address the root causes of protests, dealing head on with the issues raised by the populace in the course of their demonstrations.”
Below is the full statement:
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