LACK OF DEMOCRACY IN ZIMBABWE DESPITE ELECTIONS


Published in VILLAGE on 26th March - 1st April 2005, page 33

STATEMENT

As members of the Zimbabwe group of the Irish section of Amnesty International, we are seeking to raise awareness, both in the lead-up to the elections next week, and during the aftermath, of the lack of democracy and good governance in Zimbabwe, to strengthen our solidarity with human rights defenders there, and to make clear to the Mugabe government that the world is watching and caring in the name of justice. We would be hypocritical, if at the same time, we did not call for political accountability, and the accepting of responsibility for mistakes, in government, here in Ireland; for a greater commitment to removing the burden of debt off Zimbabwe's shoulders; for trade between EU and Zimbabwe that is just and fair; and for more respectful and adequate conditions for asylum-seekers living here. We all live in the same moral universe, the UN Declaration for Human Rights is our common standard for justice and for human flourishing and development.

Amnesty International is calling on the Irish Government and the international community, as well as inter-governmental bodies sending election monitors to Zimbabwe, to ensure that they fully take the human rights context into account when monitoring the elections. The monitors must be given access to all areas of the country, and focus particular attention on access to justice, food distribution, freedom of movement, assembly and expression, as well as equal security for all candidates and supporters.

It was great to see many new immigrants joining in the St Patrick's Day parades all over Ireland. The Zimbabwe group within the Irish section of Amnesty International has members who are immigrants, many of whom have had to flee Zimbabwe, because of its terrible human rights violations; other members are Irish nationals, many of whom have spent time working in Zimbabwe.

We followed the recent bye-elections, in Meath and Kildare, with interest, especially as a General Election will be held in Zimbabwe on 31st March.

We would have been shocked, if some of the candidates for the bye-elections had felt that it was unsafe over recent weeks to sleep in their own homes.

We would have been outraged, if their party supporters had been attacked, when putting up posters or distributing election literature. We would have been deeply concerned, if journalists and the media in general had been severely restricted in giving fair coverage to all candidates. We would have been alarmed, if human rights organisations had arranged meetings to protest such abuses, and had their leaders arrested and tortured by the Gardai. This is what it is like in Zimbabwe at election time.

Zimbabwe is one of the 14 countries who make up the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which agreed, last year, on election protocols to promote conditions for free and fair elections. Last October, the main opposition party (The Movement for Democratic Change) called, in vain, for a postponement of the Zimbabwean elections till the end of 2005, to give adequate time to see that the SADC protocols were put in place. Amnesty, and many other organisations, do not think that free and fair elections are possible.

Andrew Furlong, co-ordinator of Zimbabwe group.

Zimbabwe@amnesty.ie ; www.amnesty.ie

For a copy of the briefing 'Zimbabwe: An assessment of human rights violations in the run up to the March 2005 parliamentary elections', please see:

http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engafr460032005

For more articles