On 10 December, 2015, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), joins the Government of Zimbabwe, Civil Society Organisations and all other stakeholders as well as the rest of the world in commemorating International Human Rights Day. The 2015 theme for International Human Rights Day commemorations is, “Our rights. Our freedoms. Always”.
In 1950, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 10th December as Human Rights Day to bring to the attention of the peoples of the world the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948) as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. Since then, International Human Rights Day has been commemorated globally each year on 10th December.
The UDHR which sets out general human rights principles or standards together with two international treaties, namely, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (1966) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (1966) which define specific rights and their limitations, constitute the International Bill of Rights. The provisions of the UDHR, ICCPR and ICESCR have over the years been adopted in other international and regional human rights treaties and national constitutions including the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 20 Act (2013).
The year 2015 marks the 50th Anniversary of the two Covenants, that is, the ICCPR and ICESCR. Accordingly, this year’s Human Rights Day commemorations coincides with the launch of a one-year celebration of the 50th anniversary of these two human rights Covenants. Zimbabwe acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in May, 1991, thus committing the country to adopt and implement the human rights provisions set out in the Covenants.
The overall focus for the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the two Covenants is on ‘freedom’, recalling the four freedoms that underlie the UDHR and the two Covenants, which are freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom from want. According to the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), theaim is to raise awareness of the rights in the two Covenants with a broad global audience. The theme encompasses the idea of freedom as a universal concept. It emphasises the ideal for all of humanity to realise and enjoy freedom in all spheres of life. These ideals are inspired by the spirit of the UDHR, and find expression in the commitments of the ICCPR and the ICESCR.
As we commemorate International Human Rights Day under the theme, “Our rights. Our freedoms. Always”, theZHRC acknowledges the positive steps being taken by Government to align national laws to the Constitution and calls upon the Government to expedite the process so as to facilitate the domestication of rights provided for in the ICCPR and the ICESCR, and other treaties Zimbabwe is party to. The Commission calls on duty bearers to accelerate efforts to ensure the full spectrum of civil and political rights; along with economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms are respected and fully guaranteed at all levels of society in keeping with the letter and spirit of the ICCPR and the ICESCR.
The Commission implores all key stakeholders, duty bearers and the general public to seize the occasion of the 2015 International Human Rights Day commemorations to take stock, reflect and take positive steps to ensure all fundamental human rights and freedoms are enjoyed to the full, particularly among the marginalised and less privileged members of our society.