The human rights situation in Zimbabwe deteriorated further during 2016 with an increase in the quantity and severity of human rights violations by state actors. These included the illegal demolition of homes, continued violations of property rights, abductions and torture, politically motivated sexual violence by state actors, further restrictions on freedom of association and expression and arbitrary arrest. An increase in public protest over the summer in response to the political environment and the deteriorating economic situation saw police respond using dogs, tear gas, water cannon and baton charges. The government denied permission for activists and opposition parties to hold rallies but granted similar requests by the ruling party. Reports of intimidation, rape, assisted voting and vote buying primarily by the ruling party marred two by-elections. Partisan distribution of food by government agencies was also reported in seven provinces in October 2016.

There were reports that approximately 200 women were trafficked to Kuwait in 2014 and 2015.  40 women sought refuge at the Zimbabwean Embassy in Kuwait and were returned home in April 2016. An official at the Kuwait Embassy has been charged with trafficking of three of the victims. Sex between men is illegal and LGB&T persons continue to face discrimination.

The Government of Zimbabwe engaged with the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in November and committed to step up efforts to improve prison and police cell conditions and to reconsider its approach to the death penalty.

The UK continued to prioritise human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe, in keeping with Zimbabwe's status as a human rights priority country. At the UPR, the UK welcomed Zimbabwe's 2013 Constitution but expressed concern at the slow progress of legislative alignment and called for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to investigate allegations of political violence. We also reiterated the importance of respect for the right to shelter and property. The Government of Zimbabwe accepted our recommendations to accede to the Convention against Torture, and noted our recommendation to align electoral, public order and media laws with the 2013 Constitution before the end of the current Parliament.

The UK funded training on human rights legislation and the constitution for Zimbabwean prosecutors. We worked through the multi-donor Transparency, Responsiveness, Accountability and Citizen Engagement (TRACE) Programme to improve access to justice, media and information freedom and the electoral environment in advance of the 2018 elections. The Embassy in Harare also facilitated discussions leading to action against gender-based violence, in support of women's empowerment and to promote the rights of young people, and met parliamentarians and political leaders to encourage engagement, dialogue and respect for the rights of the people of Zimbabwe.

Looking ahead, the UK will continue to work with other donors to support the TRACE programme and with local stakeholders to protect democratic space and enhance state accountability and transparency. We will also press for delivery on the UN UPR commitments, through the tripartite process (Government of Zimbabwe, UN and NGOs). The UK will continue to call publicly for the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold the rule of law and human rights, while encouraging Zimbabweans of all political persuasions to exercise their democratic rights, including through free and fair elections.


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