Human Rights Report Terms of Reference

  1. Introduction

A registered apolitical and citizen’s rights focused organization established by a group of human rights defenders and activists coming together to defend, promote and empower marginalized and disenfranchised community groups in its diversity to fully enjoy their rights seeks to develop a report on the state of Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe. The organization was formed after the realization that marginalized community groups are being left behind in the socio-economic empowerment programs, democracy and governance; and national development discourses of several Southern African countries owing to lack of specific targeted interventions and investments for vulnerable groups particularly youth and women. The team who established the organization also recognized the low solidarity levels and movement building crisis in most southern African countries and how this has affected the ability of civil society to actively and positively contribute to democratic developmental states in Southern Africa. The organization was established immediately to provide oversight and think tanking around the welfare and rights of marginalized groups with a sole purpose of ensuring progressive realization and enjoyment of rights by all. The organization works with citizens in low living standards where social harmony for marginalized youths and women is threatened and were access to basic social services such as water and sanitation, health and education have turned out from being a right into a privilege in both rural and urban areas. The organization is therefore influencing the policies as it relates to the rights of youths, women, LGBTIQ communities in their diversity and advance the rights-based and pro-people approach to political, social and economic empowerment through well-thought citizens or community driven and led reforms premised under the pinnacles of transparency, accountability, democracy and good governance. The organization is there to create and facilitate space for citizens and communities to have a collective voice to challenge oppressive systems and structural barriers and in turn effectively participate in key decision-making processes across the cultural, political, social, environmental, technological and economic spectrum.

2.   Background and Contextual Analysis

Concerned by the significant deterioration of both the environment for and the situation of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe. Throughout the past months, the situation of multiple and particularly violent physical assaults against HRDs as acts of reprisals for their legitimate human rights work. These attacks are part of a more global context of systematic abuse against civil society. The authorities use all means at their disposal to muzzle HRDs, from threats to surveillance, arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention and even the use of solitary confinement. Court Hearings of HRDs are systematically postponed, creating a sense of constant pressure on them to intimidate them into abandoning their human rights activities. Furthermore all these abuses have dramatic consequences on the physical and psychological integrity of HRDs, raising serious concerns for the future of the human rights movement in Zimbabwe.

Moreover, the Zimbabwean Parliament is currently discussing the adoption of the Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO) Amendment Bill, introduced by the government on November 5, 2021. The bill aims at regulating civil society organisations and restricting civic space by proposing a much wider definition of the PVO, leading to mandatory re-registration of organisations already existing under different legal regimes, and by preventing PVO to engage in political activities. Without defining the ‘political involvement’ while imposing harsh penalties, including jail times, to those who would not respect this prohibition, the Bill exposes civil society organisations to systematic arbitrary detention and criminalisation. In the context of the public hearings for this bill, ruling party militants have been violently attacking anyone raising their voices against it, with multiple instances of threats and beatings being reported.

The political context also plays a key role in the abuses against human rights defenders. The run-up to the 26 March 2022 parliamentary and local government by elections saw an increase in attacks against opposition activists and human rights defenders. Police violently dispersed peaceful rallies, arbitrarily arrested and tortured activists and ruling party militants even killed an opposition activist on at a rally. This situation is expected to worsen in the run-up to the 2023 harmonized elections. The very real possibility of increased violence against human rights defenders makes this report especially timely and necessary.

The Organization has therefore decided to devote a comprehensive report to the situation of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe. The document will inter alia address the root causes of human rights defenders vulnerability to human rights violations; the structural causes of the lack of accountability at the local level for such violations; and the impact of these attacks on civil society in general.

3. Objectives of the report:

At the moment, there is only sporadic documentation of cases of violence and abuses against HRDs in Zimbabwe. This report will aim to assess the situation of civil society in Zimbabwe, in order to identify and expose the patterns of systematic harassment and violations against HRDs as well as the torture and ill-treatment they face. The ultimate goal is to mobilize greater international support from influential stakeholders to prevent and respond to infringements facing HRDs and to fight against the prevailing impunity in the country.

The main objectives of the report will be the following:

  • To investigate and document the serious violations and attacks against human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, including torture, ill treatment, and arbitrary detention.
  • To collect first-hand testimonies from HRDs on the type of harassment and challenges they face and document the profiles of victims, the circumstances surrounding the abuses and the profiles of the (alleged) perpetrators. 
  • To investigate as well as the lack of accountability at the local level for violations against their rights, notably by looking into the types of judicial processes undertaken, and whether/how investigations into the attacks on HRDs have been/are conducted for selected cases.
  • To analyse the psychosocial cost of the pattern of systematic attacks against human rights defenders at the individual and collective levels.
  • To analyse the legal framework for the protection of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe as well as restrictions to freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.
  • To analyse the impact of anti-torture legal framework on the protection and redress protection of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe including those in detention
  • To look into the political commitment of Zimbabwe both in terms of the protection of human rights defenders in the light of its legal instruments and its ratification of regional and international conventions.
  • To follow-up on previous recommendations formulated by UN and ACHPR bodies in relation to the protection of HRDs in Zimbabwe.
  • To contribute to the protection of human rights defenders and to a more enabling environment for civil society in Zimbabwe;
  • in order to improve the working environment of HRDs in Zimbabwe and strengthen their protection.

4. Outputs

  • A 15 page public report in English drafted on the basis of field research and interviews with HRDs undertaken. The report will also address recommendations to the authorities, non-State actors and the international community.

5. Copyright   

  • All materials/documents arising from this research shall remain the property of the publishers and their partners.

6.  Experience and Qualifications

The organization is looking for a person (s) with knowledge and a clear understanding of Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Reporting in Zimbabwe. The individual(s) must be in possession of a University graduate degree in Law, Economics or Social Sciences. A minimum of 7 years of professional experiences in undertaking similar or related task; adequate familiarity with broad Human Rights issues in Zimbabwe and excellent writing and oral communication skills in English language. 

7. How to Apply

All those interested should sent a CV, expression of interest (EOI) with budget, timeframe and at least 3 samples of similar work completed to consultancycso@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions is 31 May 2022. Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

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