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Amnesty International calls for international observers
October 24, 2001
repression, including political killings and torture, continues to worsen
in Zimbabwe, Amnesty International said today in a new report.
The new Amnesty International report appeals to the European Union and
the Commonwealth to send international observers as soon as possible,
ahead of the Presidential elections due before April 2002. It is being
released to coincide with a visit by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action
Group (CMAG) to Zimbabwe today and in advance of the 29 October meetings
in Brussels of EU foreign affairs ministers in the Council of the European
Union (EU) and of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly of the Africa, Caribbean
and Pacific (ACP) group of States and the EU.
Zimbabwean human rights organisations have reported as many as 50 politically
motivated killings since early 2000 and more political killings took place
during several by-elections in September 2001. Amnesty International fears
the situation will deteriorate if the international community does not
take preventive action.
"Despite human rights benchmarks being set for Zimbabwe in the Abuja and
Cotonou Agreements*, the human rights situation remains serious and without
expected improvement. A pattern of political repression by the ruling
party in the run-up to elections has been repeated last month, and will
likely be repeated again in the months ahead," the organisation said.
The human rights violations have been carried out predominantly by "war
veterans" and other supporters of the ruling party, and in some cases
with the complicity or active involvement of the police.
Supporters of the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union -
Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), have reportedly set up secret locations where
they intimidate, assault and torture opposition supporters. There are
also reports that opposition supporters have been assaulted in police
One man told a human rights organisation that he was abducted from his
home in Harare in April this year, taken to a location on the outskirts
of town and tortured for having distributed opposition party cards. He
stated that his assailants used red-hot chains from a fire to burn an
"X" on his back and set on fire Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party
T-shirts they had seized from his home.
In a September by-election in the central Zimbabwe district of Chikomba,
the MDC candidate was threatened with death and remained in hiding. Witnesses
in the community heard the screams of a primary school headmaster being
beaten to death by suspected ZANU-PF supporters, who also allegedly abducted
three other men, forcing them to strip naked and to beat each other with
whips. Another kidnap victim later identified the police officers and
state intelligence agents who beat him with police batons and attempted
to drown him in a river.
Journalists attempting to carry out critical and independent reporting
continue to be subjected to harassment, including violence and death threats
as well as criminal charges fabricated to hamper their work. Amnesty International
is extremely concerned for the safety of journalists and reiterates calls
for the authorities to ensure their safety.
In the past 18 months, "war veterans", ruling party supporters and those
who have taken over white-owned farms have forced up to 70,000 black farm
workers to leave their homes. A Zimbabwean human rights group reported
that a farm worker in Waterfalls, near Harare, was beaten to death on
12 June 2001 by "war veterans". It appeared that nearby police officers
ignored the killing at the timeand journalists with the state-controlled
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation television crew looked the other way.
Members of the police, intelligence services, pro-government "war veterans"
and other ruling party supporters consistently escape accountability.
Police have not only failed to maintain law and order but often have directly
participated in human rights violations.
Amnesty International's report sets out recommendations to the Commonwealth
and the EU. It is urging the EU and the Commonwealth to send international
observers as soon as possible ahead of next year's presidential elections,
publicly condemn the ongoing violence, provide training and resource support
for local human rights non-governmental organisations monitoring human
* The 6 September 2001 Abuja Agreement was reached by Commonwealth nations
in response to widespread human rights violations and land seizures. The
June 2000 Cotonou Agreement created a partnership between the EU and African,
Caribbean and Pacific countries.
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office
in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW web : http://www.amnesty.org
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