Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and the country's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] reached an agreement on Thursday on a new constitution. Details of the agreement have not yet been made public [BBC report]. Tsvangirai previously stated that the passage of the constitution was a condition for the conduction of elections scheduled for later this year. According to Mugabe, he will announce in the next few weeks when a referendum will be held [VOA report] to approve the new constitution. Mugabe and Tsvangirai are political rivals who formed a coalition government in 2008 in the wake of highly contested elections [JURIST reports].
Earlier this month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], released [JURIST report] a report [text, PDF] calling for Zimbabwe to reform its current legislative and electoral environment before this year's 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.