Last week, The Governor of theMasvingo Province in Zimbabwe banned 29 NGO’s providing humanitarian relief and security in the region.The banned organizations – which include both local groups like Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rightsand Care International– have provided basic services and support to mitigate a worsening humanitariansituation in the country.
A joint statement issued by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for HumanRights, Crisis In Zimbabwe Coalition and Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum affirmsthat the Governor has no regulatoryauthority and cannot legally de-register NGOs.
While the Governor claims that theseorganizations did not register theiractivitieswith his office, many commentators allege that the ban is no more than a scare tactic ahead ofimpending general elections which will happen at some point this year.In 2008, a blanket ban on foreign NGOs made it difficult for the world to monitor Zimbabwe’s flawedelections.
Violations against Human Rights workersare frequent in Zimbabwe. Human rights defenders and activists are arbitrarilyarrested, detained and harassed. Earlier this month, ten members of the rightsgroup Women of Zimbabwe Arise were detained ata peaceful demonstration in Bulawayo.Preventing organizations from documenting rights violations and providinghumanitarian aid does an injustice to Zimbabwe’s citizenry.
In January 2009, Physicians for HumanRights released a report [pdf]detailing systematic human rights violations by Mugabe’s regime that weredirectly linked to the man-made collapse of the nation’s health system and anensuing cholera epidemic. PHR called on the UN Security Council to refer thesituation in Zimbabwe to the International Criminal Court to investigatepotential crimes against humanity.
PHR calls on the government of Zimbabwe to end theharassment of those delivering aid, thoroughly investigate all incidents ofarbitrary arrest and detention, and allow civil society groups unimpeded accessto deliver humanitarian assistance. With these essential steps the governmentof Zimbabwe can begin to turn the corner on its history of systematic humanrights violations.