Patriotic Bill Is Unclear, Ambiguous And Imprecise: Rights Lawyers
2 June 2023
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HARARE – The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said on Thursday that the Patriotic law is “unclear, ambiguous, imprecise and likely to be misused by the law enforcement”.

Zanu PF Wednesday invoked its parliamentary majority to muscle through, the controversial Criminal Law Amendment Bill – better known as the Patriotic Bill – which seeks to impose death, at the very extreme, on citizens “willfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”.

The law, fiercely opposed by the opposition, sailed through with a 99 affirmative vote while 17 opposed it.

Among its gamut of punishable offences, the law criminalises active participation by citizens in meetings inside and outside Zimbabwe on issues of military intervention, subverting, upsetting, overthrowing or overturning the constitutional government, or on economic sanctions and trade boycotts.

The law seeks to punish any person who engages foreign governments’ officials or embassies without prior government authorisation amid strong fears this could endanger the works of journalism.

“The law does not define sovereignty and national interest, which could be broadly and subjectively interpreted to criminalise the lawful conduct of those expressing their freedom of expression,” the lawyers’ group said.

The law also applies to actions done outside Zimbabwe, meaning one could be charged in Zimbabwe for allegedly committing the crimes abroad.

ZLHR added, “We are deeply concerned about the harsh penalties for deliberately injuring the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe, which include the death penalty, long imprisonment, loss of citizenship, ban from registering or voting as a voter for at least five years”.

ZLHR said that the death penalty in the law violates section 48 of the national constitution, which only allows capital punishment for murder in aggravating circumstances.

The government claims that there is nothing wrong with the law, and compares it to the Logan Act in the United States, which forbids unauthorised American citizens from negotiating with foreign governments that have a dispute with the United States.

Only two people have ever been charged with violating the Logan Act, one in 1802 and the other in 1852. Neither was found guilty.