Protect Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe


In February 2009 a Government of National Unity (GNU) composed of Zimbabwe’s three main parties was formed marking a new phase in a decade long political crisis that has been characterised by serious human rights violations. The formation of the new government has ushered in a shaky transitional process that is aimed mainly at stabilizing the country and creating a new constitution leading up to fresh elections. However, mistrust amongst the three parties and political manoeurving persists, often to the detriment of the general population. The human rights situation has improved compared to 2008 when thousands of people supporting the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as well as anyone perceived to be critical of the former ruling party, Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), were victims of state sponsored political violence.


However, despite the formation of the GNU, human rights defenders, including non-governmental workers, lawyers, journalists and community leaders continue to be consistently targeted for harassment and intimidation while restrictive laws, policies and practices are selectively and harshly enforced to repress peaceful dissent. The Zimbabwean police have been weakened and compromised by government manipulation and Amnesty International continues to observe partisan policing by the Law and Order section of the Zimbabwean Republic Police (ZRP) under the GNU. Repressive laws which stifle the operating environment of human rights defenders and journalists, such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), have not been repelled or amended and continue to be selectively enforced by the police. The independent media in Zimbabwe continues to be suppressed. Radio and television broadcasting is still closed and no steps have been taken by the GNU to license independent media players. 


Amnesty International has extensively documented instances of torture, inhumane treatment and arbitrary arrest. The victims are mainly human rights defenders and perceived supporters of the MDC. Reported perpetrators include police and other state security agents and non-state actors, including ZANU-PF supporters. 

Amnesty International is campaigning for change in Zimbabwe.

How can we make this change happen?

Amnesty International calls on the government to:

1.    To improve the operational environment for human rights defenders

2.    Acknowledge their rights enshrined in the UN Declaration of HRDs

3.    Amend or repeal repressive legislation.

To take action on this and to help legitimise the work of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, click here.

To meet some of the human rights defenders and hear their stories click here.

© APGraphicsBank