Zimbabwe is a party to a range of international instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, among other treaties. Under these treaties, the government has a duty to guarantee equal protection of the law to all persons without discrimination, and to prosecute serious violations of the rights enumerated, including where the perpetrator is a private citizen. Independence of the judiciary is also a cornerstone of these international provisions. Crimes should be investigated and prosecuted in a fair, effective, and competent manner by the relevant judicial, administrative, or legislative authorities.
The Zimbabwean constitution provides similar guarantees. Section 18(1) of the constitution stipulates that every person is entitled to the protection of the law. Section 18(9) of the constitution says that every person is entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent court. The independence of the judiciary is guaranteed by section 79b.
Right to Property
The right of governments to acquire land in the public interest is commonly recognized. Effective protection of economic and social rights may require redistributive measures, including measures which do not provide for full market value compensation for land that is expropriated. The complete protection of existing property rights can only be justified in a situation where everyone has a basic minimum for what they need to maintain a decent standard of living. The issue with the Zimbabwe government is thus not the concept of redistribution, but the need for land reform to follow basic criteria of due process and nondiscrimination, as required both by the African Charter in relation to property rights, and by other international instruments more generally.
Right to Due Process of Law and Nondiscrimination
The Human Rights Committee, which interprets states' obligations under the ICCPR, has made clear that article 26 provides for protection against discrimination in the enjoyment of all rights, including rights not mentioned in the ICCPR, such as the right to property. These provisions make it clear that a program of land reform that discriminates in law or fact on the grounds of political belief or other grounds is not in accordance with international human rights law.
Land reform is generally advocated in Zimbabwe as urgently necessary to address the stark inequalities in land distribution and wealth. However, as stated in the African Charter and reinforced by the provisions of the ICCPR and other binding international treaties, the rules providing for compulsory purchase should be clearly set out in law, and those affected should have the right to voice opposition to the acquisition and to challenge it before a competent and impartial court. In addition, the security forces and criminal justice system must provide equal protection to all those who are victims of violence, and the law should take its course without interference from political authorities.
173 The African Charter also provides, in article 21(2), that: "In case of spoliation the dispossessed people shall have the right to the lawful recovery of its property as well as to an adequate compensation."
174 Article 2(3) of the ICCPR provides that: "Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes: