There are fears that if the Patriotic Bill is passed into law it will open floodgates to gross violations of human rights. The penalties provided by the Bill range from loss of citizenship, to denial of the right to vote and the death penalty.
Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, said the Patriotic Bill signals a crackdown on rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
He went on to say the Bill is self-evident weaponization of the law to curtail the rights to freedom of expression and public participation in the watershed elections slated for August 23 this year.
The Senate passed the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Bill 2022, commonly referred to as the ‘Patriotic Bill’, which criminalizes “wilfully injuring the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe” on June 7, 2023. The also criminalizes those who participate in meetings with the intention of promoting calls for economic sanctions against the country.
“The Bill’s deliberately vague and overly broad provisions on damaging Zimbabwe’s interest and sovereignty, including by calling for economic sanctions, flies in the face of Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations. All laws must be defined precisely, allowing people to know exactly which acts will make them criminally liable.
“The Bill, if passed into law, could give authorities greater powers to unduly restrict human rights, and worryingly, it would allow for imposing the death penalty against those perceived as being critical of the Government, including political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, civil society leaders, opposition parties, and whistle-blowers. We are deeply concerned that the Bill adds to the existing plethora of offences punishable by death in Zimbabwe.
“We call upon the President to reject this bill. The Government of Zimbabwe must urgently ensure that it abides by its obligations under international human rights law,” said Mwangovya.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. According to organisation, the death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.
The Bill which now awaits the President’s assent was published in the Government Gazette on December 23, 2022. It was passed by the lower house of the National Assembly on May 31, 2023, and sailed through Senate on June 7, 2023.