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Despite numerous challenges, Zimbabwe has an active civil society advocating for a broad range of human rights issues, yet increasing numbers of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists are being targeted due to their legitimate human rights work. This has included being subjected to threats, arbitrary detention, abductions and enforced disappearances and the police are able to act with impunity. In particular, human rights defenders tackling issues concerning corruption, public accountability and impunity have been targeted.

The summer of 2016 saw an increase of arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, with the police increasing politically motivated violence. In June 2016, the government ordered a temporary block on internet access and WhatsApp text messaging for several hours to prevent people from participating in social media human rights campaigns, and in September 2016, the government placed temporary bans on protesting in Harare.

In May 2013, a new constitution was adopted which enshrines a number of fundamental rights including the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression as well as political participation. However, restrictive legislation continues to impinge on the work of human rights defenders and civil society organisations are still subjected to prohibitive legal restraints. Despite calls from the international community, the government has not yet aligned its legislation with this new constitution.