A high powered commission of inquiry was dispatched to Harare, Zimbabwe, by the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization to investigate reports of human rights abuse and violation of international standards by the government of that country.
The appointment of the commission was prompted by two complaints filed by workers delegates and employers’ delegates to the International Labour conference at its 97th session last year in June.
According to a statement from the ILO, the complaints were submitted on the basis of Article 26 of the ILO constitution.
The Article provides that any of the members shall have the right to file a complaint with the international labour office if it is not satisfied that any other member is securing the effective observance of any convention which both have ratified in accordance with stated provisions.
One of such provision is that the Governing Body may, if it finds necessary, before referring the complaint to a commission of enquiry, communicate with the government in question in the matter prescribed by ILO statutes.
However, if the Governing Body does not think it necessary to communicate the complaint to the government in question or where it has made such communication and no statement in reply has been received within a reasonable time that the Governing Body considers to be satisfactory, then the Governing Body may then appoint a commission of enquiry to consider and to report there on.
Alternatively, the Governing Body may adopt the same procedure either of its own motion or on receipt of a complaint from a delegate to the conference.
Thus in the case of Zimbabwe, the committee of the ILO on the Application of Standards met and agreed in June 2008 that a resolution be adopted after the detention of Lovemore Matombo, President of that country’s workers federation (the ZCTU) and related reports of abuse and torture of union leaders.
Workers delegates who included Japhta Radibe of the Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU) and Jan Sithole of Swaziland were led by Rantsolase of South Africa in supporting the decision. This action culminated in the appointment of the commission five months later in November 2008.
The key task of the commission will be to establish the substance of the reports and examine the observation by Zimbabwe of the freedom association and protection of the right to organize convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the right to organize and colleting bargaining convention, 1949 (N0. 98).
It has been pointed out that at its first session in Geneva, February 18-20, 2009 the commission took a number of decisions concerning its procedures, methods of work and timetable. It also sent letters to the Government, the complainants and other interested parties, seeking additional information concerning the issues raised in the complaints regarding the situation of freedom of association in the country.
The three man team is chaired by Judge Raymond Ranjev, a former senior judge at the International Court of Justice and conciliator at the World Bank International Centre for Settlement Disputes. Other members of the team are Professor Evance Rabban Kalula, serving at the University of Cape Town as a professor of Employment Law and Social Security, and Dr. Bertrand Ramcharan.
Bertrand is a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and Commissioner of International Commission of Jurists.
According to a statement from the commission, notice was taken of the recent inauguration of the government of national unity in Zimbabwe and extended its whishes for the success of the new government.
The commissioner is expected to reconvene for a second session later in April, when it will undertake visits to the region, and hold formal hearings in both the region and in Geneva. It has further been indicated that the commission plans a longer visit to Zimbabwe during that period.