Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rights in Zimbabwe 'precarious'!

A person's bandaged hand in Harare, 16 June 2009
A recent victim of violence pictured by Amnesty International on Tuesday

Zimbabwe is still suffering "persistent and serious" human rights violations, Amnesty International says.

The organisation's secretary general, Irene Khan, made the comments at the end of a six-day visit to the country.

"Although the level of political violence is significantly less compared to last year, the human rights situation is precarious," she said.

Failure to reform security services was an obstacle for the unity government formed in February, she said.

During Ms Khan's fact-finding mission she met human rights activists, victims of human rights violations and senior government ministers.

Last June, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) pulled out of a presidential election run-off, blaming violence against its supporters.

Irene Khan
The government must give as much attention to securing human rights reforms as they are to seeking economic resources
Amnesty's Irene Khan

After months of wrangling, the party agreed to share power with President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF, and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai became prime minister.

According to Reuters news agency, Ms Khan said donors should not see continued abuses as a reason to withhold badly needed aid to rescue Zimbabwe's economy.

The power-sharing government has said the country needs about $10bn (£6bn) to stabilise its economy; Mr Tsvangirai is currently on a tour of foreign capitals to seek aid.

"The government must give as much attention to securing human rights reforms as they are to seeking economic resources," AFP news agency quotes her as saying.

"The failure to introduce reforms of the police, army and security forces, or address impunity, and the lack of clear commitment of some parts of government are real obstacles that need to be confronted by the top leadership of Zimbabwe," she said.

CASE STUDY
Annie Sibanda, spokeswoman, Women of Zimbabwe Arise

Since the government of national unity began, very little has changed on the ground for the ordinary Zimbabwean.

The people are vulnerable, unsettled, insecure. We don't have adequate access to food, shelter, or personal security. Zimbabweans are refugees in our own country.

Police are still actively harassing and surrounding informal traders - looting their goods and chasing them on an almost daily basis.

When we protested yesterday in Bulawayo, women were attacked by uniformed police officers with batons and viciously beaten.

We demand that our government stop politicking and put people's needs first.

Ms Khan noted that the right to protest remains severely restricted as shown on Wednesday when a demonstration by women in Bulawayo was broken up police and people arrested.

In a statement, Amnesty said her assessment also showed:

• Human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers continue to be intimidated, harassed, threatened, arrested and charged

• Prosecutions continue against 15 political activists and human rights defenders abducted last year and against a number of MPs

• Seven MDC activists who were subject to "enforced disappearances" in 2008 remain untraced

• Farm invasions persist, with violence affecting both farmers and farm workers.

Last week, an MDC minister warned the country could be heading for a new wave of violence to coincide with elections due in 18 months.

Minister for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration Sekai Holland told the BBC that she and other MDC members were receiving threatening phone calls every day.

But the BBC's southern Africa correspondent Karen Allen says the fact that Amnesty International's top official has been allowed to operate legally in Zimbabwe hints at a growing sense of openness.


BBC NEWS REPORT.

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