United Nations special rapporteur Alena Douhan with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Commission (OHCHR) has invited submissions from various stakeholders for the United Nations special rapporteur Alena Douhan, who is on a 10-day visit to Zimbabwe, to probe the impact of targeted sanctions on the country.
Douhan arrived in Harare on Monday to assess the impact of the Western-imposed sanctions on ordinary Zimbabweans.
She came at the invitation of government.
The Zanu-PF regime blames the sanctions for the collapse of the economy, but Western countries, the United Kingdom and the United States in particular, have, however, maintained that corruption, disregard of property rights and abuse of human rights were fuelling Zimbabwe’s economic woes.
On Monday, government released an itinerary indicating Douhan would only meet government officials and agencies, sidelining civic society and the opposition — long accused by the ruling Zanu-PF party of inviting the embargos on the country as a regime change strategy.
But OHCHR has invited submissions from various stakeholders to enable Douhan to fully assess the impact of the sanctions on the country.
The move will be a slap in government’s face after it had sought to bar her from meeting opposition parties and civic organisations.
“The special rapporteur proposes to meet with various representatives of the government of Zimbabwe,” the OHCHR said in a statement on Monday.
“She will also have private meetings with UN agencies present in Zimbabwe, as well as international organisations, regional organisations, international financial institutions, the national human rights institution, and representatives of the diplomatic community present in Harare.”
OHCHR added: “She would also like to meet with non-governmental, business community, civil society organisations and opposition, in particular, those whose activities may be affected by unilateral coercive measures, as well as academics with specific expertise in this field. Those private meetings will be organised by the Special Rapporteur’s office.”
The special rapporteur will present her findings and recommendations in a report to the Human Rights Council in September 2022.
The OHCHR said written submissions would be considered for Douhan’s final report.
“Your responses will be kept confidential. Neither you nor your organisations will be identified, nor will your response not be attributed to you or your organisation, under any circumstances,” the UN agency said.
Douhan was appointed special rapporteur in March 2020.
In February, she visited Venezuela to assess the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and other Western countries on the country.
In her preliminary report, she said the sanctions “have exacerbated the economic and humanitarian calamities in Venezuela”.
In November 2020, Douhan was in Qatar, where she also made a preliminary statement critical of the sanctions imposed on that country.
The next month, Douhan also made a statement on US sanctions against the Syrian government saying they “may inhibit rebuilding of Syria’s civilian infrastructure” destroyed by the conflict, and may “violate the human rights of the Syrian people”.
Her comments were welcomed by the government of Bashar al-Assad, while the US special envoy for Syria rejected her findings.
Zimbabwe was placed on US sanctions under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 over gross human rights violations following the violent land reform programme as well as successive violent elections.
Mnangagwa has been clamouring for their removal, soliciting the support of Sadc and the African Union, but the US has demanded implementation of reforms as a pre-condition for the removal of the sanctions.
Douhan’s visit comes at a time when the United States Department of Treasury has noted in its review of the sanctions that further refining the policy is necessary to ensure that “economic and financial sanctions remain an effective tool of US national security and foreign policy”.
“To effectively confront these changes, Treasury must modernise and adapt its sanctions policy and operational framework,” part of the nine-page sanctions review paper read.
“A refined policy rubric and options for modernising Treasury’s sanctions infrastructure will provide Treasury with the right tools to stay ahead of these changes and the adversaries seeking to take advantage of them.”
Douhan’s visit also comes at a time the country is experiencing a rise in cases of politically-motivated violence.