Human rights violations committed prior to the formation of the coalition government in February 2009 cannot be ignored. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association is writing in response to claims that legislators were recently forced to accept such an oversight by Justice and legal affairs minister, Patrick Chinamasa (pictured right) on allegations that the negotiators reached an agreement that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission’s jurisdiction shall be limited to cases committed after the 13th February 2009.
Excluding atrocities committed prior to that period is a grave oversight that has lasting effects on the reunion of the society and any other peace-building projects. The period intended to be skipped happen to be the critical time that has a lot to be investigated. Innocent citizens were maimed, raped, killed and tortured during the early 80s Gukurahundi as well as the 2000s electoral violence. People also suffered from the ill-conceived operation Murambatsvina that left thousands homeless and displaced. As such, skipping such an era affects the whole national healing and reconciliation process. Furthermore, it renders such processes and institutions irrelevant as real issues could have been omitted. What worries more is an element that just six people (negotiators) can be said to have reached a quorum more powerful than the rest of the parliamentarians for the two hundred and ten constituencies they represent. As one of the legislators said, laws are made to protect people and we should not put cut-off dates as if there is something we are afraid of, and we should embrace everyone who feels their rights were violated before independence, after independence or in 2008.
It is surprising that the misguided decision is adopted at a time when the International Criminal Court and other African courts are intensifying crackdown on perpetrators of war crimes and human rights abuses, most of which committed more than a decade ago. Latest is the sentencing of a Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga to 14 years in prison for recruiting and using child soldiers. Lubanga is the former president of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), a Congolese rebel group implicated in numerous grave human rights abuses. Recent months have seen criminals such as Charles Taylor the former Liberian leader and Hosni Mubaraki facing the wrath of the law.