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Africa rights body appeals to Mugabe
Thom McLachlan, Business Day (SA)
March 22, 2007

THE African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has called on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to uphold the law and "desist from wanton arrest and torture of journalists".

This came after a complaint from the Media Institute of Southern Africa that two journalists, Tsvangirai Mukwazhi and Tendai Musiyu, were "severely assaulted by the police" after their arrest while covering the heated protests which saw opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai arrested last week.

"Of great concern was that Mukwazhi's whereabouts remained unknown until his appearance in court on March 13 as the police withheld information about his whereabouts to his lawyers, who were denied access to the detained journalists," the complaint said. "The two journalists were subsequently taken to hospital for treatment following the assaults."

Rapporteur on freedom of expression at the commission, Pansy Tlakula, sent an urgent letter of appeal to Mugabe regarding the deteriorating situation of freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. "I actually met Tsvangirai Mukwazhi during my visit and I saw with my own eyes the serious injuries he sustained on his back during the beating by the police. His car, equipment and laptop were also confiscated," she said.

To date, the two journalists have not been formally charged despite having spent 48 hours in police custody.

She called on Mugabe to "respect the rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights", to which Zimbabwe is a party state. Attacks on media in Africa prompted the commission to pass a resolution on freedom of expression in November against such acts.

She said that cases in point included Gambia, Zimbabwe and Eritrea.

On Tuesday, the head of the Catholic church in Zimbabwe, Archbishop Pius Ncube, criticised the South African government for failing to rein in Mugabe.

"They are in the best position to put pressure on Zimbabwe, to call for sanctions, if necessary. They could force Mugabe to change but they have been watching this thing. It's now the eighth year it has been deteriorating," he said.

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