Harare - Zimbabwe's human rights commission will not investigate abuses committed before a power-sharing government was formed 2009, according to the text of a law obtained by AFP on Tuesday.
According to the law, which has already come into effect, the probe will not cover abuses committed during controversial land clearances or in the run-up to violence-plagued elections in 2008.
The commission will look into any abuses providing the investigation "shall not relate to an action or omission that occurred earlier than the February 13 2009".
That was the date at which the power-sharing cabinet was sworn in with President Robert Mugabe's political arch foe Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister.
The creation of the commission is part of a package of reforms agreed to by the unity government.
According to the act, the panel will provide redress for violations of human rights and for injustices.
It will be able to "conduct investigations on its own initiative or on receipt of complaints."
But critics say the panel's scope is so narrow as to be meaningless.
Torture and beatings
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights called on the government to "urgently establish an independent and credible mechanism to deal with issues relating to past human rights violations and atrocities."
"This independent mechanism must be mandated to deal with all past human rights violations."
The organisation said such an inquiry should investigate crimes committed during the colonial period as well as post-independence ethnic violence and the Mugabe government's "Operation Murambatsvina".
The operation, which in the Shona language means "clean out the rubbish", was a series of forced slum evictions which began in 2005 and resulted in 700 000 people losing their homes and affected 2.4 million people according to a UN report.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the panel should also investigate violence ahead of the 2008 vote.
Human rights groups reported that the vote was marred by instances of political assassination, state-sponsored torture and beatings.