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  • Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign

  • U.S. calls on government not to interfere in opposition member's funeral
    Stephen Kaufman, USINFO
    March 14, 2007

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    Washington -- In response to the Zimbabwean government's violent repression of its political opposition, the Bush administration is considering "additional measures" to its existing targeted sanctions, the State Department said March 14.

    Deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the United States will be consulting with "other like-minded countries," including members of the European Union, on possible actions to take, and Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry Lowenkron will be raising the issue March 15 in his consultations with the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    Lowenkron will "see what we can do with our African Union partners to push the Zimbabwean government to allow for peaceful political participation from its citizens and from the opposition," Casey said.

    Current U.S. sanctions, imposed in 2002 and 2003, have been "very specific and focused on individuals who have been associated with some of these repressive policies," he said.

    "There's always other tools in the toolbox, though, and I certainly expect we'll look at those," he added.

    The deputy spokesman said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's remarks threatening a "heavy price" against the opposition are "in keeping" with his regime's continued intimidation and repression of the country's opposition.

    Casey said members of Zimbabwe's political opposition, including Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, plan to participate in the March 17 funeral of an individual who was killed in the government's March 11 attack on an opposition prayer meeting.

    "We call on the government of Zimbabwe to refrain from any actions against that funeral and events surrounding it and to allow that to move forward peacefully and without any further incidents of violence or intimidation," Casey said.

    U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell intends to meet with Tsvangirai, who is recuperating from injuries reportedly received while in police custody, "as soon as he is physically able to receive visitors."

    Earlier, Casey said the United States was "most pleased" to see that Tsvangirai and some of the other individuals who had been severely beaten at the prayer meeting and while in custody have been allowed to receive medical attention.

    "Certainly we're glad to see these people getting medical treatment, but it still makes very clear the kinds of problems that Zimbabwe currently faces and the exact nature of the regime that we're dealing with," he said.

    Casey also said the Bush administration wants to see the U.N.'s Human Rights Council in Geneva address the issue, despite U.S. concerns that it lacks credibility because it is focused primarily on Israel.

    "We think this would be certainly the kind of concern that a well-functioning and credible human rights council would want to address," he said.

    A senior State Department official said the United States wants the international community, including Zimbabwe's neighbors in the African Union, to do more to increase diplomatic pressure on the Mugabe regime.

    The official said that although beatings and acts of intimidation against government opponents have occurred before, such as during the country's previous election, "this is a qualitatively different kind of reaction to opposition efforts."

    "People really ought to be shocked to see how this happened, and to not only see that the initial breakup and violent breakup happened, but to then have people who are basically in the leadership of a substantial portion of the Zimbabwean political community be savagely beaten while in detention and then denied medical treatment on top of it," the official said.

    The Mugabe government's response "is clearly . taking it to a different level, and we hope people will respond appropriately," the official added.

    The official cited the poor condition of Zimbabwe's economy, saying that under the Mugabe government the country has transformed from one of the region's larger food exporters into a major importer, "relying, in some cases, on international food contributions."

    The United States is seeking ways to target the regime "without causing additional hardship to the people," and the official said that would likely mean looking at "ways to expand and broaden the kinds of targeted sanctions that we've already got in place."

    (The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

    Previous reports and statements from the U.S. Embassy can be accessed at 

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