Washington, DC – THE United States has adjudged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government as one of the worst administrations in terms of human rights violations in the world.
This came out in a report titled 45th Annual Country Reports of Human Rights Practices 2020 released by US State secretary Antony J Blinken on Tuesday in the House of Commons, where Zimbabwe was included on the list for taking advantage of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions to crack down on political dissent and to consolidate authoritarian rule.
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In the report, Zimbabwe was named together with countries such as China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua as the worst rights violators.
Blinken said the pandemic impacted, not only individuals’ health, but their ability to safely enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms as some governments used the crisis as a pretext to restrict rights and consolidate authoritarian rule.
“State-sanctioned violence in Zimbabwe against civil society activists, labour leaders, and opposition members continued a culture of impunity, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex LGBTQI+ persons continued to be vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and harassment due to criminalisation and stigma associated with same-sex sexual conduct,” Blinken said.
US Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Jim Fisch, in his reaction to the report, said Zimbabwe and other countries that were abusing human rights should be denied access to resources that would facilitate the abuses.
“The international community must continue to hold these regimes accountable, in part by denying them the resources to facilitate gross human rights violations. The connection between corruption and #human rights abuses is particularly transparent in #Zimbabwe. Reporting on government corruption or demanding government accountability leads to harassment, jail time, and torture for those who speak up,” Fisch said.
He said dictators, authoritarian regimes, kleptocrats and autocrats alike denied their citizens access to the most basic human freedoms.
“These bad actors will stop at nothing to cling to power. All the while, they detain, abuse, torture, and even murder those who dare to dissent. This report serves as an important diplomatic tool that gives us the resources to name and shame those who undermine or suppress the will of the people.”
Human rights defenders in Zimbabwe told NewsDay that it was a shame for the country to be rated among the worst rights abusers in the world.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum director Musa Kika said: “This state of affairs bleaks Zimbabwe’s chances of full acceptance as an equal among the family of civil and progressive countries, and does damage to the government’s reformist rhetoric. The US report is on all fours with the reports the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and other local human rights groups have been releasing in 2020.”
Kika said with a plethora of anti-democratic laws put in place, the abuse of criminal justice systems, security sector impunity and gross corruption, Zimbabwe was one nation where there is democratic regression.
A number of political activists were arrested last year, with the prominent ones being MDC Alliance members vice-presidents Tendai Biti and Susan Karenyi-Kore, legislators Joanah Mamombe (Harare West), Job Sikhala (Zengeza West), party members Cecilia Chimbiri, Netsai Marowa and student activist Takudzwa Ngadziore, among many others, for violating lockdown restrictions.
Human rights defenders have said Mnangagwa’s administration is worse than the late former President Robert Mugabe’s rule.