Zimbabwe: Southern African leaders must forcefully condemn human rights abuses

Amnesty International UK Media Director, Lesley Warner, said:

'The Zimbabwean government has shown repeatedly that it is prepared to literally bludgeon any dissent to death.

'Southern African leaders including Zimbabwe's neighbours have a critical role to play in demonstrating the fundamental importance of respecting human rights. Regrettably the July Summit of the African Union failed to address the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe.

'If the SADC is not to go down as another missed opportunity Zimbabwe must be on the summit agenda. All possible pressure must be brought to bear on the government of Zimbabwe to protect the fundamental human rights of its citizens.'

Amnesty International has been closely monitoring the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. State-sponsored harassment, attacks and torture directed at the opposition, civil society and independent media workers continue unabated.

Following a mass national strike in June 2003, approximately 800 supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were arrested, two people reportedly died and approximately 150 people were injured in attacks by supporters of the ruling party ZANU-PF, members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the police. MDC member Tichaona Kaguru was brutally attacked by police and army officers with whips, rubber batons and sticks and subsequently died from his injuries on the second day of the strike.

President Mugabe announced at the opening of the fourth session of Parliament in July 2003 that the government would introduce new legislation governing the operations of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Amnesty International is concerned that, as with legislation introduced over the past two years, the government will use this new NGO Bill to silence dissent and further restrict the right to freedom of association.

Background

In May, 2003 Amnesty International published a report, 'Zimbabwe: Rights under siege', which examined how the Zimbabwean authorities, and especially members of the police force, are using legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act, to severely restrict the rights of all Zimbabweans to freedom of expression, assembly and association. See www.amnesty.org.uk or contact Amnesty International on the number below.

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