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Zimbabwe must make legal reforms for 2013 elections: HRW

Zimbabwe must still reform its current legislative and electoral environment before this year's elections, according to a report [text, PDF] published Thursday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. In the report, HRW stated that the unity government, established in 2009 after the 2008 elections resulted in violence, failed to take the necessary steps to ensure a "credible, free and fair elections" that will take place in March this year. HRW found that reforms have taken place for the legal and administrative requirements for successful elections but not on the implementation and enforcement of such agreements. Without effective enforcement mechanisms which are essential to credible, free and fair elections, HRW said it is most likely that the 2013 elections will fail. To avoid such a result, HRW called for several initiatives. For example, the Zimbabwe government should abolish all repressive legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act, and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Another step for the government is to ensure that those responsible for the 2008 electoral violence are held accountable for their actions. Moreover, partisan heads of the police and other security forces should also be replaced by non-partisan individuals. HRW also called the international community to support Zimbabwe in successfully implementing the necessary reforms needed for peaceful and successful elections.

Zimbabwe has been criticized for its failure to ensure compliance with international human rights standards. In November the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) [FIDH backgrounder] released a report finding that human rights defenders in Zimbabwe continue to be harassed [JURIST report]. In March various human rights groups urged South African courts to prosecute Zimbabwe for violations including torture and forced labor [JURIST reports] of civilian workers in illegal mining camps. In June 2009 Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [press release] stating that Zimbabwe was still experiencing serious human rights violations [JURIST report], such as the arrest and detention of human rights activists, and needed to confront issues that led to such problems.

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