THE Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) calls upon the government to uphold human rights and observe the rule of law during the COVID-19 national lockdown.

This follows the issuance of Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021 to implement an immediate national lockdown running from January 5 to February 4, 2021 to prevent and contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is because of the potential threat to the health and safety of citizens that the Forum welcomes the announcement of the national lockdown.

However, the Forum is concerned about the likely possibility of human rights abuses being perpetrated by State security agents in the enforcement of the national lockdown regulations.

Our concerns stem from experiences of the first national lockdown that ran from March 30 to November 30, 2020, where 932 cases of organised violence were documented by the Forum, most of which were carried out by State security forces.

The recorded cases included incidents of abductions, assaults and torture, arbitrary arrests, and attacks against journalists.

The Forum also remains conscious of the effects of a national lockdown in a country with 74% of the labour force earning a living through the informal economy, characterised by widespread poverty and lack of basic amenities such as water and health
services.

In light of the challenges associated with the enforcement of a national lockdown, the Forum urges the government to provide a meaningful cushion to vulnerable communities in the form of food aid packages, allowances for grants including potable water amidst the pandemic.

The Forum calls upon the government to adopt a human rights-based approach and observe constitutionally-guaranteed rights in its deployment of State security agents to enforce the lockdown.

The Forum, also reminds State security agents to take note of the International Human Rights Standards for Law Enforcement, which stipulate, among other things, that non-violent conflict resolution ought to be employed before the use of force, that force shall be used only when strictly necessary and that force shall be used only in enforcement of the law.

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

Do you have a coronavirus story? You can email us on: news@alphamedia.co.zw