Zimbabwe: Crackdown on political opponents intensifies in run up to 27 June elections

Amnesty International has condemned the sharp crackdown on political opponents and human rights activists in the run up to the second round of Zimbabwe’s presidential elections, as it published a new report detailing abuses.

The recent detention of the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, is the latest in a succession of arbitrary detention, arrests and other human rights violations that have taken place since the March 2008 parliamentary and presidential elections.

Activists from the organisation Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), including its leaders Jenni Williams and Magadonga Mahlangu, were arrested on 28 May after taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Harare, where they called on the Chair of the Southern African Development Community to help to end to the recent violence. In an unusual step, the activists were denied bail after the state prosecutor lodged an appeal.

Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen said:

"There is a persistent stream of intimidation targeting those who dare to speak out against the government in Zimbabwe at the moment, which is going unchecked.

"Jenni, Magadonga and the other WOZA activists were arrested only for peacefully exercising their basic civil rights. Now in prison they are at risk of abuse and torture.

"Their imprisonment is a clear violation of human rights and so they should be released immediately."

In its report, Amnesty International outlines human rights abuses since the March elections, which include unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment and the harassment and intimidation of mainly MDC supporters and human rights defenders.

The report states that the bulk of the human rights abuses are being perpetrated by supporters of the country’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, and by members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWA) – generally known as ‘war veterans’.

State security organisations, in particular the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) have been unwilling to act against these perpetrators – allowing them to kill, torture, assault and burn homes and businesses of suspected MDC supporters with impunity. In fact, in some cases authorities have instigated or even directed attacks by these groups.

Kate Allen continued:

"The government of Zimbabwe should no longer turn a blind eye to the ongoing state-sponsored violence. They must ensure the safety and security of all those at risk during this dangerous crackdown on those deemed to be a political threat."

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