HUMAN rights defenders have raised alarm over the passing of amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act in the National Assembly, saying this is likely to be weaponized by law enforcement.
This week, parliament approved Clause 2, known as the Patriotic Bill, which criminalises fundamental freedoms of association, assembly and speech of any citizen who holds meetings with foreign diplomats or any other foreigner, plunging the country into democratic uncertainty.
Three other clauses to the Act; Clause 2, 3, and 4 were also approved by the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Legal grouping, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said the Bill if passed into law, is likely to be misused by law enforcement.
“Following a critical analysis of the provisions, ZLHR concluded that the provisions are vague, lack certainty and are prone to misuse by law enforcement. The Bill does not define sovereignty and national interest,” ZLHR said in a statement.
“ZLHR is gravely concerned that the Bill penalizes citizens and residents for merely attending a meeting where sanctions are considered. Whether the sanctions target any individual or official or class of individuals.
“The vague criminalisation of meetings between the Zimbabwean citizens and foreign governments violates human rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression in the constitution. Zimbabwe also has voluntarily agreed to be bound by numerous United Nations and African Union human rights instruments providing these rights.
ZLHR said the legislation will also have a chilling effect on civil society organisations’ international advocacy efforts to promote human rights protection in Zimbabwe.
Southern Defenders, a sub-regional network that works towards the protection and promotion of Human Rights Defenders said it has been outraged.
“Such repressive laws are too broad and could be used to restrict fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of expression,” the organisation said.
Opposition politicians said the Bill’s approval downplays democracy in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, a similar piece of legislation, the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, which seeks to monitor the operations of non-governmental organisations has also sailed through National Assembly and Senate.