March 27, 2006

Anti-terrorism law gazetted / Human rights commission established

The government has gazetted a tough anti-terrorism law imposing life imprisonment for people found guilty of participating or aiding international terrorism. The Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism Bill published in the Government Gazette also makes it an offence punishable by up to ten years in jail for anyone knowingly harbouring foreign terrorists. Failure to report the presence of foreign terrorists within 72 hours of becoming aware of their presence on Zimbabwean soil will attract a five-year jail sentence, according to the proposed new law. The anti-terrorism Bill will now be tabled in Parliament for debate and if passed will be forwarded to President Robert Mugabe for his signature before it becomes effective legislation. Zimbabwe does not face any known threat from international terrorism networks but Mugabe's government has routinely accused former coloniser Britain and her Western allies of "sabotaging and sponsoring terrorist activities" against the southern African country's economic interests.

In the meantime, it has been announced that the government will set up its own human rights commission as part of its "quest to create a culture of human rights", the Herald reported. According to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, the commission would have the mandate to receive, investigate and redress any complaints relating to human rights. It would also have the responsibility to promote and protect human rights as Zimbabwe continued its quest to create a culture of human rights. Chinamasa explained that the decision to create a human rights body came after an influx of "manufactured" human rights abuses reports by non-governmental organisations in the past six years. "They (NGO's) manufacture and peddle false allegations and they also recycle them," said Chinamasa, adding that these allegations were aimed at attacking President Robert Mugabe's government. He stressed that the establishment of the body was not an admission that Zimbabwe had a human rights problem but that it was merely moving with practices and trends in the region. "In any case there is no country in the world where on a daily basis there are no violations of human rights," Chinamasa said. (Zimbabwe Online, South Africa / Cape Times, South Africa)

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