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Past Atrocities: Civil society calls for truth-seeking

by Staff reporter
05 Apr 2019 at 07:11hrs | Views
Civil society organisations under the banner of the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) have called for genuine truth-seeking process to establish the truth about past atrocities and the whereabouts of disappeared persons.

The call was made on Thursday 28 March 2019 at the commemorations of the UN International Day of Truth held in Harare.

Speaking at the commemorations, NTJWG Chair and leading human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama said that  the right to truth is important, because the relatives of victims of summary executions, enforced disappearance, missing persons, abducted children, torture, require to know what happened to them.

"Without truth, justice, healing, reconciliation and peace will always remain elusive." said Muchadehama

The event was also attended by Dr. Patson Dzamara, brother to Itai Dzamara, a journalist and activist who was disappeared in March 2015 by sustected state agents. Dzamara said that as a family truth for them meant closure but they have no hope that the government cared about that as they believe the government was involved in the disappearance of his brother.

"We believe you can not expect a solution from the same systems that created them' said Dzamara.

Ms. Shari Eppel, the Director of Ukhutula Trust said it was important for families to know the truth as part of a healing process but in some cases, truth alone is not enough.

"Truth can take a long time. And there can be many truths, which change over time. So there is need for a careful process of accompaniment in seeking truth for families," said Shari Eppel whose organisation works with victims of Gukurahundi in Matebeleland in carrying out exhumations.

Ms. Roseline Hanzi the Director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), regretted that there was lack of citizens solidarity in pushing for truth and accountability.

"In the case of Itai Dzamara, as lawyers we have tried our best to push the state to investigate but it has been a dead end. The law has its limits but citizens must not stop demanding accountability." Said Hanzi.

Zimbabwe continues to suffer state violence again civilians with the latest encounter in January 2019 having left over 17 people dead and hundreds locked up.  The Constitution has created the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to lead truth seeking. However, 6 years later, the NPRC is paralysed by lack of resources.  Recently, Minister of Justice Ziyambi Ziyambi said the government was planning to dismantle the NPRC and put it under the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, a move the NTJWG says is contrary to the best practices and the expectations of the survivors.

"The NPRC was established following popular consultations in the constitution reform process." Alec Muchadehama, the NTJWG Chair recently told the media, "It is wrong for one political party to reverse that."

The NTJWG is a civil society platform which has been pushing for implementation of constitutional provisions relating to transitional justice since 2014. Over 99 organisations have been actively involved in its work which has since seen the operationalisation of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) in 2018.

Source - Agencies