Geneva, Sept. 19, 2008 — UN Watch and the Global Zimbabwe Forum hosted the first NGO debate at the UN Human Rights Council on Zimbabwe’s new deal and its implications for human rights. Moderated by UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer, the panelists reviewed the human rights situation in Zimbabwe in light of the country’s recent political agreement at a panel event held at the UN Human Rights Council. The discussion focused on the consequences of the Sept. 15th accord for all Zimbabweans, including those living in the diaspora and the internally displaced.
The panelists agreed that the political agreement is a landmark event, but argued that much is still to be done to set Zimbabwe on the path of reform. Human rights
lawyers Daniel Molokele of the Global Zimbabwe Forum and Arnold Tsunga of the International Commission of Jurists discussed their hopes that the new political landscape will contribute to democratic transformation in Zimbabwe, and the fears that it legitimizes the status quo while producing little change. Molokele said that this new deal is a “wait and see situation.”
Molokele and Tsunga also shared their personal experiences and provided an overview of Zimbabwe’s political and historical background. Molokele stated that the Global Zimbabwe Forum is ready to work with all actors to improve the human rights situation in the country and called for the depoliticization of various national institutions, including the police.
The third panelist, Katinka Ridderbos, a country analyst with the Internal Monitoring Displacement Center, presented statistics and pictures on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. She expressed her hope that recent developments will better the situation in the country, including the lives of internally displaced Zimbabweans. She highlighted the inclusion of provisions on displaced populations in the political agreement and the re-opening of the country to NGOs.
The speakers were well received by the audience of diplomats and NGO representatives, including UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Liberia, Charlotte Abaka. Following the speaker presentations, Abaka stressed the importance of justice and reconciliation process to be carried out by a truth and reconciliation commission and the establishment of a national, independent human rights commission. The official delegation of the Zimbabwean government was also present and issued a statement welcoming the new deal and calling on the international community to be patient. They said that this political agreement is “a process and not an event.”