Human Lives Human Rights:
The Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Bill 2022, also known as the “Patriotic Bill”, was passed by the Senate on 7 June 2023. The bill makes it illegal to “willfully injure the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”.
The rights organizations are alarmed by the Senate’s passing of the ‘Patriotic Bill’, which indicates a severe clampdown on the rights of Zimbabweans to express themselves freely, to assemble peacefully and to associate with others. The law is being used as a tool to restrict the rights of expression and to limit public participation in the upcoming elections in August this year.
The bill’s unclear and wide-ranging provisions on harming Zimbabwe’s interest and sovereignty, including by asking for economic sanctions, are contrary to Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations. All laws must be precise and clear, allowing people to know exactly which actions will make them guilty of a crime.
The bill, if enacted into law, could give authorities more power to unjustly limit human rights, and alarmingly, it would allow for imposing the death penalty on those seen as being critical of the government, such as political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, civil society leaders, opposition parties, and whistle-blowers. We are very worried that the bill adds to the existing number of offences that can be punished by death in Zimbabwe.
We urge the President to reject this bill. The government of Zimbabwe
must urgently ensure that it respects its obligations under international human rights law.”
The Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Bill, 2022, makes it illegal to “willfully injure the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe” and those who participate in meetings with the aim of promoting calls for economic sanctions against the country. This law would violate the human rights to free speech, peaceful assembly and association if passed. Moreover, the penalties provided by the bill range from loss of citizenship, denial of the right to vote and the death penalty.
The bill was published in the Government Gazette on 23 December 2022. It was passed by the lower house of the National Assembly on 31 May 2023 and sailed through Senate on 7 June 2023. It now awaits the President’s assent.