ZIMBABWE: NEW RISK OF VIOLENCE AS ELECTION OBSERVERS LEAVE

'The police should abide by international human rights standards when fulfilling their duties. Action should be taken to ensure that the post-election period is free from the human rights abuses that have marred the run up to the presidential elections,' Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International is aware of a build-up in military presence in towns such as Bulawayo, Gweru and Kwekwe. Opposition supporters, members of non-governmental organisations, employees of the independent press and other perceived opponents of the government are now believed to be at risk, not least in the event of any popular protest against the election results. Members of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) youth brigades have already been involved in serious human rights violations, including killings, torture and threats to physical safety of those perceived to be opposition supporters.

'The international community should maintain its active engagement with the Zimbabwe authorities to ensure that human rights violations are prevented,' the organisation added.

Amnesty International reminds the international community that the Zimbabwean army has been involved in a pattern of reprisal beatings and torture of members of communities that voted for the opposition in previous elections. This was true in 1985 and 1990 as well as more recently in the June 2000 parliamentary elections when the army occupied Harare's high-density suburbs whose residents overwhelmingly voted for the opposition. Similarly, after food riots in 1998 army personnel carried out house-to-house beatings of residents in the same suburbs. Amnesty International appeals to the Zimbabwean authorities not to use the military in any new reprisals.

'The Southern African Development Community, and in particular South Africa, should take firm action to press the Zimbabwe authorities to uphold the rule of law and prevent widespread human rights violations. The police must act professionally and in accordance with international human rights standards in maintaining order in this volatile period,' Amnesty International said.

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