Geneva, 1st October 2004
10.The Commissioner of Police claimed that Mr. Coltart deliberately distorted the truth in stating that the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) Regulations, 2004, Statutory Instrument 37 of 2004 could be used to detain MDC members and its MPs for up to a month without legal process and that they applied to a wide range of offences under the POSA. However, the delegation, which obtained the text of the relevant Regulations after its mission, notes that the Regulations do indeed authorise police to detain persons for a 28-day period on charges under the POSA, such as “subverting a constitutional government” (see D.I.5.). It fails to understand how the relevant provisions (Section 2 read together with paragraph 10 of the Third Schedule to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) could be read to imply that Mr. Coltart was distorting the truth.
11.The authorities insisted that Zimbabwe under its present Government was a law abiding country, respecting the rule of law. The delegation notes that the rule of law implies inter alia respect for the courts and the judgments they dispense. It is therefore appalled that in the case of Mr. Bennett, court orders have been consistently ignored by the authorities, thereby forcing Mr. Bennett and his family to leave his farm. It is appalled at the violence perpetrated against workers on the farm, all of them Zimbabwean citizens, as is Mr. Bennett himself.
12.The delegation wishes to recall that Zimbabwe is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and thus bound by its provisions, whether they have been incorporated into national law or not. It recalls in this respect more particularly the observations and recommendations made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its Concluding Observations on the initial report of Zimbabwe (CCPR/C/79/Add.89) of 6 April 1998. The delegation is concerned that some of the laws and regulations enacted since, in particular the POSA and Statutory Instrument 37 of 2004, may run counter to those recommendations.
13.Parliament was described by most of the delegation’s interlocutors as a haven for the much called-for tolerance. Indeed, the delegation was pleased to note that Parliament was a place where the majority and the opposition worked together in a manner consonant with traditional parliamentary practices. However, it is troubled by the recent and apparently questionable use of contempt of the House proceedings against two MDC MPs, and it hopes that such proceedings will not be resorted to in order to prevent opposition MPs from freely exercising their right to freedom of expression, which is fundamental to any parliamentary democracy.