‘Executive bypassing Parly on international treaties’

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PARLIAMENTARIANS have accused the Executive of seeking to ratify international treaties without the involvement of the august House in violation of international law, the Daily News on Sunday reports.

Debating International Treaties Bill [H. B. 10, 2019], when it was presented for its second reading on Thursday by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, opposition MDC MPs demanded to know the mischief that the Bill seeks to address since Parliament has always been ratifying treaties.

MDC MP for Hatfield Tapiwa Mashakada expressed concern that government was reluctant to observe the doctrine of separation of powers to allow Parliament to retain the power to ratify and domesticate all treaties and protocols.

“This Bill is seeking to give the Executive the powers to negotiate international treaties, ratify international treaties and domesticate those treaties without the involvement of Parliament.

“We have been approving and ratifying conventions without any problems so what is the mischief that this Bill wants to cure at this material time? I sense that this Bill wants to take the powers of Parliament from ratifying and domesticating these international treaties. Why do they want to bypass Parliament and yet our role is law making, it is a legislative role,” asked Mashakada.

According to the Bill, one of the main mischiefs it seeks to remedy is that many international treaties having far-reaching consequences for the country’s domestic law as they are concluded without the courts or the public having due notice by way of their official publication.

This Bill also seeks to provide a mechanism for the publication or notification of such treaties.
But MDC’s Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure said this could be remedied giving the Justice ministry the responsibility to take the lead in the negotiations while the Foreign Affairs ministry facilitates in the negotiations.

Madzimure said this was important because the Justice ministry was well-versed with legal issues and its involvement would make it easy for the country to domesticate its laws and the international treaties.

“The president cannot negotiate any international treaty, sign the international treaty and then do the ratification of any international treaty. It is important that, it must be consented to by a certain number of parliamentarians,” Madzimure said.

He proposed that there be a provision in the law that for a treaty to be ratified, a certain number of MPs must consent to that Bill to ensure that citizens’ views are represented.

The portfolio committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, held a consultative meeting on the Bill in October 2019.

The Bill is intended to establish a uniform procedure for the consideration and approval of international treaties by the Cabinet and Parliament before their ratification by the president, and for their publication after their ratification or in some cases, before their ratification.

The MPs expressed the view that courts should not be involved in the process while the Law Society of Zimbabwe should be involved in recommending a senior legal expert to the process.

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