Zimbabwe - NGO’s banned in Masvingo Province
Last week, The Governor of the Masvingo 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 Rights and Care International – have provided basic services and support to mitigate a worsening humanitarian situation in the country.
A joint statement issued by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Crisis In Zimbabwe Coalition and Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum affirms that the Governor has no regulatory authority and cannot legally de-register NGOs.
While the Governor claims that these organizations did not register their activities with his office, many commentators allege that the ban is no more than a scare tactic ahead of impending 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 flawed elections.
Violations against Human Rights workers are frequent in Zimbabwe. Human rights defenders and activists are arbitrarily arrested, detained and harassed. Earlier this month, ten members of the rights group Women of Zimbabwe Arise were detained at a peaceful demonstration in Bulawayo. Preventing organizations from documenting rights violations and providing humanitarian aid does an injustice to Zimbabwe’s citizenry.
In January 2009, Physicians for Human Rights released a report [pdf] detailing systematic human rights violations by Mugabe’s regime that were directly linked to the man-made collapse of the nation’s health system and an ensuing cholera epidemic. PHR called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Zimbabwe to the International Criminal Court to investigate potential crimes against humanity.
PHR calls on the government of Zimbabwe to end the harassment of those delivering aid, thoroughly investigate all incidents of arbitrary arrest and detention, and allow civil society groups unimpeded access to deliver humanitarian assistance. With these essential steps the government of Zimbabwe can begin to turn the corner on its history of systematic human rights violations.