For 34 years, the United States has reviewed the state of human rights around the world, to provide the U.S. Congress with a record to help it make decisions on our relations with other nations. Human rights begin with a fundamental commitment to the dignity that is the birthright of all people, and the report is one measure of assessing how a country measures up to that ideal, in the interests of its citizens and the greater international community.
The recently released Human Rights report for Zimbabwe in 2010 shows that while state-sponsored abuses of human rights were at a much lower level than during the electoral crisis of 2008, significant problems remained. Security forces and elements of the government dominated by the ZANU-PF party continued to commit serious human rights abuses. While there were no documented politically motivated killings by government agents last year – unlike 2009 – security forces continued to torture, beat and abuse non-ZANU-PF political activists and party members, student leaders and civil society activists with impunity.
Regarding labor rights, some positive developments were seen in 2010, but violations remained. The government cooperated in allowing an International Labor Organization mission to visit the disputed Marange diamond fields to investigate allegations of forced labor there. Government restrictions of workers' rights of association continue to curtail the formation of independent trade unions. Child labor continued to occur pervasively across a wide range of economic sectors, particularly in agriculture and artisanal mining, where children routinely face health and safety hazards.
While no country is perfect, a government that endeavors to protect the rights of its citizens is one that prospers. A government that ignores the voice of its citizens and maintains control through intimidation, coercion, and the manipulation of democratic institutions will never be able to compete with a modern democratic state that respects and truly empowers its people.