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Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 192nd session
(Quito, 27 March 2013)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Mr. Nelson Chamisa, a member of the National Assembly of Zimbabwe, and to the resolution it adopted at its 190th session (April 2012),

Taking into account the information provided by the Speaker of the House of Assembly during the 128th IPU Assembly (Quito, March 2013) on the occasion of a hearing with the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians,

Considering the following information on file:

  • Mr. Chamisa has been an opposition member of parliament from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since the initial submission of the complaint in 2005; following the November 2008 Global Political Agreement and the establishment of the Government of National Unity in February 2009, Mr. Chamisa was appointed to executive functions and is currently Minister for Information, Communication and Technology;

  • Since the initial submission of the complaint in 2005, Mr. Chamisa has been arrested, detained and harassed on numerous occasions, as were other MDC parliamentarians and members at that time;

  • Mr.  Chamisa was arrested in Harare on 11 March 2007, reportedly for participating in a prayer meeting organized by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign to protest against a blanket police ban on meetings; according to the Police Memorandum of 17 July 2007, the meeting was an unauthorized rally disguised as a prayer meeting, as posters carried during the meeting had the MDC logo and indicated that the meeting was part of a campaign to defy the government and the country’s laws; according to the sources, Mr. Chamisa was one of 50 people who were taken to a police station, told to lie on their stomachs in the courtyard and severely beaten by members of the ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front) youth militia and police officers; the sources indicated that the people concerned were denied access to lawyers and medical care and that the police failed to comply with a High Court order that such access be provided; the people were released on 13 March 2007 without being charged; no investigation has ever been conducted into the acts of torture and ill-treatment committed by the police during this incident;

  • On 18 March 2007, in the presence of police, Mr.  Chamisa was brutally attacked by eight men, reportedly security agents, at Harare International Airport on his way to attend ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly meetings in Brussels; Mr. Chamisa suffered a fractured skull, multiple lacerations to the face and a detached retina; he was hospitalized in critical condition in a Harare hospital under police guard; no investigations or judicial proceedings were ever instituted with a view to identifying and holding the perpetrators to account or to establishing the police failure to intervene to protect Mr. Chamisa; according to the Police Memorandum of 17 July 2007, “while it was common cause that Mr. Chamisa was assaulted (…)”, he did not make an official report to the police; pursuant to Zimbabwean criminal procedure, the police were therefore unable to institute investigations as the victim is required to cooperate with law enforcement agents on any police and judicial action on a crime of assault; several attempts to have Mr. Chamisa lodge a formal complaint failed; in his letter of 30 August 2010, the Attorney General commented along the same lines, stating that Mr. Chamisa had failed to put forward any admissible evidence pointing to any identifiable suspect, for which reason there was no basis for alleging that he had not been accorded the protection of the law,
Recalling that the Public Order and Security Act, enacted in 2002 and amended in 2007, gives the police sweeping powers, that it has been widely criticized as severely restricting freedom of expression, assembly and association, and that human rights organizations have in particular expressed concern at the way in which police have interpreted the Act to justify excessive use of force and to deter dissenting voices from holding public rallies and demonstrations,

Further recalling the political context in Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe and his political party, ZANU-PF, which dominated the country’s politics since independence in 1980, have recently faced growing opposition in the form of popular protests and substantial gains, including in Parliament, for the opposition MDC; following the disputed results of the presidential and legislative elections of March 2008, the Global Political Agreement, a power-sharing agreement, was signed by Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC, in November 2008; it led to the establishment of the Government of National Unity in February 2009,

Noting that the ongoing process of constitutional reform is to culminate in elections before the end of 2013 and that the draft Constitution was largely approved by a referendum held on 16 March 2013 without any significant incidents,

Recalling that the Speaker of the House of Assembly has repeatedly stated that Parliament is firmly committed to protecting the human rights of its members and to taking action to this end, within the limits imposed by the principle of the separation of powers,

Considering that the Speaker of the House of Assembly provided the following information during his hearing with the Committee at the 128th IPU Assembly (Quito, March 2013):

  • Mr. Chamisa has confirmed that he wishes the Committee to continue pursuing his case in the absence of any police or judicial investigations of the assault;

  • Mr. Chamisa never formally reported the assault to the police as he felt doing so would not achieve anything, given that the police were present during the incident and failed to take any action to protect him; he continues to refuse to file an official complaint with the police for the same reasons while the police continue to insist that Mr. Chamisa should first report the incident so that they can open an investigation; in the absence of any police docket, the prosecutor’s office is unable to formulate charges and bring the case to the attention of the Attorney General’s Office and the courts;

  • The Parliament of Zimbabwe has taken measures to ensure that the rights of parliamentarians are respected and continues to engage with the police and relevant ministries to ensure that parliamentarians are arrested only with the prior consent of Parliament and treated with dignity by the police if they are arrested and detained; the Parliament of Zimbabwe will continue condemning every incident in which a member of parliament is not treated fairly;

  • The Parliament of Zimbabwe would like to see Mr. Chamisa’s case resolved but finds it difficult to recommend concrete steps to that end in the absence of an official complaint from Mr. Chamisa enabling the police to institute investigations and the Prosecutor’s Office to bring charges,

Recalling that Zimbabwe is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, under which it is obliged to respect the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment (Article 7), the right to liberty and security of person (Article 9), and the right to freedom of expression (Article 19), and to ensure that “any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy  (…)" (Article 2(3)(a)); further recalling that the prohibition of torture is a peremptory norm of international law and that, according to the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, “wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture (…) has been committed, the competent authorities of the State concerned shall promptly proceed to an impartial investigation (…)”; noting that the Government of Zimbabwe announced in June 2012 that it intended to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment,
  1. Thanks the Speaker of the House of Assembly of Zimbabwe for the information provided and is pleased to note that the Parliament of Zimbabwe continues to exercise, in line with its stated commitment to protect the rights of its members, its duty of oversight to ensure that the competent authorities respect those rights;

  2. Repeats the long-standing serious concerns expressed in its previous resolutions and urges the competent authorities to undertake investigations to identify and punish the culprits of both the ill-treatment in detention of Mr. Chamisa on 11 March 2007 and the brutal attack of 18 March 2007 in the alleged presence of police officers who did nothing to protect Mr Chamisa; also repeats that Zimbabwe, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is bound not only to prohibit torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, but also to institute ex officio investigations into known torture allegations in order to hold those responsible to account, and once again stresses that, with respect to the attack on Mr. Chamisa, the absence of a formal complaint regarding an attack of which the authorities were aware cannot be invoked to justify inaction; remains convinced that such impunity is highly detrimental to the rule of law and respect for human rights in the country and is bound to encourage the repetition of similar crimes;

  3. Considers that Mr. Chamisa is currently in a unique position, as a government minister, to contribute to the promotion of accountability on the part of the police and security forces by lodging a complaint and bringing his case before the national courts; sincerely hopes that Mr. Chamisa will reconsider the possibility of filing an official complaint;

  4. Strongly encourages the competent authorities urgently to undertake institutional and legislative reform, particularly as regards the police and security forces and the judiciary, in order to guarantee their effective impartiality, ensure full accountability for past abuses, particularly in the case of Mr. Chamisa, and put an end to persistent abuses on their part; further emphasizes that there is an urgent need to repeal the  Public Order and Security Act to prevent such abuses from occurring again; is convinced that such reforms need to be put in place urgently so that Zimbabwe can hold credible, free, fair and peaceful elections in an environment respectful of human rights;

  5. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the parliamentary and other competent authorities and to Mr. Chamisa;

  6. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and to report back to it in due course.
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