Zimbabwe civil society in peril: threats to the rule of law

3 Apr 2023 1300 - 1400 BST

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A webinar presented by the IBA Human Rights Institute, supported by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Lawyers for Lawyers

On 22 January 2023, Zimbabwean authorities announced that they had revoked the registration of 291 nongovernmental and civil society organizations for 'noncompliance with the provisions of the Private Voluntary Organization Act.'

Now, the threat of deregistration would affect the ability of CSOs to speak freely, receive foreign funding, and, among other issues, effectively criminalises the work of CSOs in Zimbabwe.

Additionally, the newly passed ‘Patriotic Act’ creates the crime of wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interests of Zimbabwe, which critics and activists have said will target dissident speech of citizens both within Zimbabwe and those abroad on the vague notion of ‘unpatriotic’ acts. These vague and broad laws have been used to target civil society and silence fundamental freedoms of association and expression.

It has led to a chilling effect on the participation, oversight and accountability efforts of civil society, and will particularly undermine the credibility of the 2023 elections where these CSOs act as monitoring groups and observers.

This webinar will gather UN experts, Zimbabwean lawyers and civil society to discuss the situation of human rights in Zimbabwe and the shrinking civic space. Special emphasis will be placed on the lack of independence of the judiciary and legal professions and the situation of HRDs at risk, denials of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, violations of the right to a fair trial, recent legislative reforms, excessive use of force by security agencies and the ongoing culture of impunity. Speakers will explore legal and advocacy avenues to promote accountability and identify solutions.


  • Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, Director, IBA Human Rights Institute, London


  • Sternford Moyo, Scanlen & Holderness, Harare; former IBA President
  • Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva
  • Hopewell Chin'ono, Zimbabwean journalist
  • Kudzai Kadzere, Zimbabwean human rights lawyer
  • Fiona Darroch, Protimos, London