n Institute for Security Studies Papers - The trajectory of human rights violations in Zimbabwe

Volume 2009, Issue 202
  • ISSN : 1026-0404



This paper discusses the course of human rights violations in Zimbabwe through a historical approach that focuses on the immediate pre-independence (Ian Smith's regime) and the post-independence (Robert Mugabe) eras. The argument is that the conflicts over land and intolerance for political opposition are at the locus of the violation of human rights in Zimbabwe, generally triggering multiplier effects with regard to disrespect for the citizens' freedoms and autonomy. Whereas colonial regimes did not respect and protect basic human rights for Africans on the basis of race, the post-liberation state of Zimbabwe has tried to justify its position through non-imperialist ideological arguments in the same way religious states / societies justify their human rights stance through religious arguments. The discussion raises questions on the content of universal human rights that are embodied in the United Nations charter and its various covenants. The case of Zimbabwe demonstrates that where regime survival is threatened, countries can oft en curtail these United Nations' instruments on human rights. The conclusion shows the vulnerability of countries in democratic transition as they can easily regress in the upholding of rule of law and adherence to universal human rights.

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