Education Minister David Coltart says those he calls “hardliners” in the unity government are blocking Zimbabwe’s ratification of the Rome Statute because they fear ratification might expose them to prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for human rights violations.
Nonetheless, Coltart said he is hopeful that Zimbabwe will eventually sign the statute.
Speaking during a Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the ICC in Rome this week, the minister added that while political violence has decreased in Zimbabwe, more fundamental human rights violations continue.
The minister told VOA that the fear by some Zimbabwean politicians to sign the Rome Statute is unfounded.
"It’s clear that there are some in our society who don't want to ratify," said Coltart, adding that "what they don't seem to appreciate is that the ICC does not have retroactive jurisdiction."
Coltart said this statute can't be used to prosecute people who committed atrocities during the liberation struggle or against people who committed genocide during the Gukurahundi era, as it is a forward-looking statute to protect citizens.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was formed and has statute to investigate and prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity crimes of aggression and war crimes.
Zimbabwe is a signatory of the Rome Statute but is yet to ratify it under the country’s laws.
Speaking at this week’s Human Rights Day commemorations, Justice and Legal Affairs permanent secretary, David Mangota, told a gathering in the capital city that Zimbabwe had made strides in addressing women and children’s rights but noted that it is lagging behind in enhancing economic rights because of sanctions.
Mangota said Zimbabwe is committed to upholding the rights of citizens and agreed to work with the United Nations to maintain a strong human rights record.
But Minister Coltart is not alone. Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya of the Liberal Market Solutions agreed that Harare should sign the statute and commit itself to the rule of law.
"It is understandable that they would be reluctant because they would want to err on the side of safety they are aware that there have been many violations", said Ngwenya.
He still maintains Zimbabwe has an obligation to its citizens to allow for due process in cases of human rights violations.