Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] on Monday urged [report, PDF; press release] Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile] to protect human rights embodied in the country's new constitution [text]. The report, entitled "Human Rights Agenda," calls on Zimbabwe's government to end human rights violations, such as suppressing freedom of expression and intimidating individuals and organizations that speak out against the government. In the press release accompanying the report, AI expressed hope that the new constitution will help Zimbabwe make strides toward becoming more democratic and just:
There is no doubt that the new government will be judged on the basis of its human rights record and ability to improve the living conditions for everyone in the country. ... The new Constitution offers a golden opportunity for the government to begin to right the wrongs of the past, to deliver justice for its people and to allow freedom of expression. ... With political will all that is possible. We want to see the new government sending a clear signal that it is committed to breaking away from a past where human rights were blatantly violated.The Human Rights Agenda also urges Zimbabwe to put a moratorium on executions and eventually abolish the death penalty.
In May Mugabe signed the new constitution into law [JURIST report]. In March in a nationwide referendum [JURIST report], nearly 95 percent of voters supported the passage of the draft constitution, which then passed completely unopposed through both houses of Parliament. In February three UN independent human rights experts urged [JURIST report] the government of Zimbabwe to respect international human rights in anticipation of the referendum and potential changes to the system of government. The UN's emphasis on the protection of individuals' right to privacy and freedom of association accompanied Human Rights Watch's [advocacy website] call for "credible, free and fair elections," a proposition that the advocacy group claims Zimbabwe failed to ensure [JURIST report] in previous elections. Experts point to incidents such as the March 17 arrest [Bloomberg report] of four aides to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, working for the prime minister's political party the Movement for Democratic Change [official website]. Held on charges of breaching state secrecy law, the arrests follow a string of allegations against political associates, including human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa who is being charged with obstructing or defeating the course of justice [JURIST report].