The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) on Friday said it was concerned about the socio-economic crisis unraveling in Zimbabwe and has urged security forces to avoid human rights violations during protests.
In a statement from Geneva which was released through the local UN Office in Harare, a spokesperson for the high commissioner said that the office had noted the calling off of a planned protest by opposition members following a High Court decision upholding a police ban.
Reports were also emerging of the use of force against protesters who had already gathered in the city, the spokesperson said.
“With opposition demonstrations still likely to take place in Zimbabwe in the near future, we urge the government to find ways to continuously engage with the population about their legitimate grievances on the economic situation, and to stop cracking down on peaceful protesters. If demonstrations go ahead we urge the security forces and protesters to ensure they proceed calmly and without any violence,” the spokesperson added.
The UNHCHR was deeply concerned by the socio-economic crisis that continued to unfold in Zimbabwe and there was need for the government to work with other stakeholders to arrest the deteriorating situation.
“While acknowledging efforts made by the government, the international community and the UN in Zimbabwe to mitigate the effects of the crisis and reform process, the dire economic situation is now impacting negatively on the realization of the economic and social rights of millions of Zimbabweans.
“Long-term neglect and structural deficiencies have contributed to hyperinflation, resulting in soaring prices for fuel, food, transport and health services, which is having a dramatic impact on the population, and particularly on marginalized working-class people. The fact that key commodities and services have become less affordable for poor families, means there is an increasing need for strong social protection measures,” it said.
It also noted that the economic crisis was converging with the impact of Cyclone Idai that hit Zimbabwe last March, as well as the El Niño-induced drought, to create a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, with the result that around 5 million Zimbabweans, or one third of the total population of 16 million people, were now estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid.
“We are not aware of the indictment or prosecution of a single alleged perpetrator of human rights violations committed during or after of those protests. The government does not appear to have carried out the requisite investigations into the violence, including the alleged excessive use of force by security forces, in a prompt, thorough and transparent manner, with a view to accountability, and we urge it to do so without further delay.”
It also urged the government to redouble its efforts to address the current challenges through a national dialogue, with the support of the international community, and to ensure that civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and activists can carry out their activities in a safe and secure environment without fearing intimidation or reprisals for their work. Enditem