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UN rights chief criticizes Zimbabwe parties for rights abuses in election lead-up

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile; JURIST news archive] Thursday sharply criticized [press release] Zimbabwean political groups for violence surrounding the country's ongoing presidential elections and said that mediation efforts should be based on the need for accountability and justice. Members of both the ruling ZANU PF party and occasionally the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party websites] commit serious human rights violations, she said, and must be held accountable. Arbour added that current conditions make meaningful elections impossible and she called on both the Zimbabwean government and international groups to restore order. Also Thursday, the UN Special Procedures mandate holders [UN materials] reiterated concerns about rights violations in Zimbabwe and urged the government to postpone the elections until the rule of law had been restored. In a statement [text], the group wrote:

We strongly urge the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure respect for human rights and to abide by democratic principles and practices, in accordance with Zimbabwe's own domestic law and international human rights standards.
Run-off elections in the country continued Friday despite the international pressure from the UN and rights groups [FIDH press release], with current president Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] running unopposed after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] withdrew his candidacy Tuesday. Reuters has more. The UN News Centre has additional coverage.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai are disputing the results of the recent presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. The MDC has estimated that at least 65 of its members have been killed [BBC report] since the first election in March. Human rights groups suggested that state-sponsored violence would only increase as the second presidential vote drew closer, and in the past few weeks the amount of election-related violence has increased, including the beating [ABC News report], torture [National Post report], and killing [NYT report] of MDC supporters throughout Zimbabwe. On Wednesday, Tsvangirai called for the United Nations and African leaders to facilitate an end [JURIST report] to continuing political violence in the country. Earlier this month, Mugabe's government expelled a UN human rights observer, and government forces stopped and detained US and UK diplomats [JURIST reports], threatening them and beating one of their drivers.

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