Push for UN monitors in Zimbabwe

The United States and European Union plan a joint call for United Nations monitors to be sent to Zimbabwe after a human rights group alleged systematic government murder and brutality ahead of a presidential vote.

”We urge the United Nations secretary general to send a team immediately to monitor human rights and to deter further abuses,” said the final draft of a communiqué to be issued at a US-EU summit in Slovenia on Tuesday.

”We call on the government of Zimbabwe immediately to cease the state-sponsored violence and intimidation against its people that has occurred since the March 29 presidential and parliamentary election,” said the text, obtained by Reuters.

US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday that a brutal campaign by supporters of President Robert Mugabe had eliminated any chance of a fair presidential run-off election on June 27.

The group said it had documented at least 36 politically motivated murders and 2 000 victims of a campaign of killings, abductions, beatings and torture by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

It said more than 3 000 people had fled the violence, which began after March 29 elections in which Zanu-PF lost control of Parliament for the first time and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the presidential race.

Official results showed Tsvangirai fell short of the absolute majority needed for outright victory, forcing the runoff later this month.

The summit draft added: ”A free and fair presidential run-off is critical to the resolution of the ongoing crisis.”

The rights group report said Mugabe’s government had incited and perpetrated the violence to intimidate and punish opposition supporters and had failed to prosecute those responsible, who included the security forces, liberation war veterans and youth militia.

‘No chance of fair poll’
The violent campaign ”has extinguished any chance of a free and fair presidential run-off,” HRW said.

”Since the run-off was announced, the violence in Zimbabwe has gotten even worse. Zimbabweans cannot vote freely if they fear their vote may get them killed,” said the human rights group’s Africa director, Georgette Gagnon.

Mugabe accuses the opposition of inciting violence, and Deputy Attorney General Johannes Tomana on Monday told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that both sides were involved.

The US, Britain, EU and rights groups have repeatedly strongly criticised the conduct of Mugabe’s government since the March elections, but the Harare government says it will allow only election monitors from friendly countries.

HRW called on the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to pressure Mugabe to end the violence and urged them to deploy strong poll observer teams.

HRW said Zanu-PF and its allies had set up torture camps and re-education meetings around the country to force opposition supporters to vote for Mugabe. Hundreds of people had been beaten with logs, whips and bicycle chains.

The group said party officials and war veterans beat six men to death and tortured another 70 people, including a 76-year-old woman, at a re-education meeting in north-eastern Zimbabwe. In another incident, about 20 men suspected of voting for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change were beaten in front of their village. A 45-year-old man said he was beaten with whips, chains and iron bars and his leg was broken.

HRW said it had extensive evidence that senior army and police officers were directly implicated in the violence. — Reuters

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