Zimbabwe: Rights group asks AU to dispatch monitors
Posted by African Press International on May 23, 2008
Publisher. korir, email@example.com source.Zimonline, by Cuthbert Nzou
Harare ? Human Rights Watch has written to the African Union (AU) to immediately dispatch human rights monitors to Zimbabwe to help deter political violence that has killed at least 43 opposition supporters and displaced thousands others since March.
The international human rights watchdog also urged the AU to publicly demand that President Robert Mugabe acts to end violence that is blamed on the army and his supporters and which analysts say is set to worsen as a June run-off presidential election draws closer. ?The African Union should publicly demand that the Zimbabwean government halts its campaign of violence, torture and intimidation,? wrote Georgette Gagnon, the New York-based HRW?s director for Africa.
?Unless the current situation is reversed, more civilians will be brutalised and die. The African Union?s immediate deployment of human rights monitors and observers throughout the country can help deter further abuses and save lives,? Gagnon said in the Monday letter to AU Commission chairman Jean Ping. The rights group urged Ping to authorise AU monitors to probe gross human rights violations it said were committed by members of the army and ruling ZANU PF party militia against supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
The group said its researchers in Zimbabwe had documented widespread and systematic violence by soldiers and supporters of Mugabe in the provinces of Masvingo, Manicaland and Mashonaland West, East and Central. It said: ?ZANU PF officials, the military and local chiefs and headmen are inciting and organising the violence around the country by holding daily ?re-education? meetings involving beatings and torture to deter people from supporting or voting for the MDC.?
However government Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga rejected charges that the government and its supporters were involved in violence and also maintained that Harare would accept only observers it invited and not those coming at the instigation of groups such as HWR. Matonga said: ?We have already invited observers and monitors. Organisations like Human Rights Watch have no duty to ask the AU to send observers and monitors, it is the prerogative of our government to invite them if we want.?
Zimbabwe holds a second presidential election on June 27 after electoral authorities said opposition MDC party leader Morgan Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in a March 29 election but failed to garner more than 50 percent of the vote required to takeover the presidency. The MDC ? which claims that the army is plotting to assassinate Tsvangirai ? has accused Mugabe of unleashing state security forces and ZANU PF militias to wage violence against the opposition party?s supporters and structures in an attempt to regain the upper hand in the second ballot.
A leading international political think tank said on Wednesday that worsening political violence in Zimbabwe precluded a free and fair second presidential poll.
The Brussels based International Crisis Group said the best way to resolve the Zimbabwe?s election crisis was through African mediation leading to a national unity government led by Tsvangirai, adding that an opposition victory in the run-off poll could easily lead to a military coup by hardliners in the army unwilling to give up control. ? ZimOnline.