Zimbabwe: African Commission On Human And Peoples' Rights to Decide On Case Challenging Certain Provisions of the AIPPA

PRESS RELEASE – The legal secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) has completed its draft decision in a case brought before it against the Zimbabwean government challenging provisions of the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

On 18 November 2008, ACHPR Chief Legal Officer, Dr. Robert Eno, confirmed to MISA-Zimbabwe in Abuja that a draft decision had been arrived at on the merits of the case brought against the government by MISA-Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe (IJAZ) that challenged a number of sections of AIPPA. Dr. Eno said the draft decision will now be submitted to the ACHPR for its consideration, pending a final decision in the matter. Details of the decision will only be known when the Commission makes its final decision.

Other cases before the Commission include that of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the banned "Daily News" and "Daily News on Sunday"; Capital Radio; and that of Andrew Meldrum.

Dr Eno said the state had filed its submissions on the merits of the ANZ case but had yet to file similar papers in the Meldrum case. He said that the state had not yet filed its arguments on admissibility in the matter brought by MISA-Zimbabwe, Capital Radio Pvt Limited and Article 19 challenging the inconsistencies in certain sections of the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) with Article 9 of the African Charter.

BACKGROUND

The process that cases taken to the ACHPR undergo is three-pronged and begins at the seizure stage, which entails presenting the matter before the Commission. At the seizure process, there is need to prove that the respondent state that the complaint raised is against is a signatory to the African Charter on Human and Peoples? Rights, and that the state has violated the provisions of the Charter.

The second stage is the admissibility stage. At this stage the ACHPR declares a case admissible when the applicant has proved that domestic remedies do not exist, have been exhausted or are not working. In Zimbabwe’s three cases, all the matters went to Zimbabwe’s highest court, the Supreme Court, signifying exhaustion of domestic remedies.

The final stage is when all the involved parties argue the merits of the matters in question. The Commission will conclude its 44th session underway in Abuja on 24 November 2008.

In 2000, Capital Radio in Zimbabwe began broadcasting from the Monomotapa Hotel after the Supreme Court nullified Zimbabwe’s monopolistic broadcast laws. Security services raided the hotel and seized the equipment.

In June 2003, Meldrum, a freelance journalist, was abducted by state security agents and deported from Zimbabwe, despite the existence of a High Court order which declared his deportation illegal.

"The Daily News" and "The Daily News on Sunday" refused to register under AIPPA, choosing instead to fight the law’s constitutionality, and were closed down by the state-appointed Media and Information Commission (MIC). The government confiscated 127 computers from the paper’s headquarters.