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Zimbabwe government urged to address 'persistent and serious' rights violations

[JURIST] Zimbabwe is still experiencing serious human rights violations [press release] and needs to confront issues that led to such problems, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said Thursday. Calling the violations "persistent and serious," AI called for Zimbabwean leaders to reform police, army, and security forces and address the lack of government commitment to rectifying human rights issues. AI urged the government to implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) [text, PDF], which provides a framework for reformations and was signed by the three most prominent political parties. AI has concluded that defenders of human rights, journalists, and lawyers are being intimidated and arrested, citing prosecutions against 15 activists who were abducted last year along with several politicians. Additionally, AI cited seven members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [advocacy website] who were subjected to "enforced disappearances" last year and have yet to be found. The press release also mentioned other concerns, including a heavily restricted right to protest, violence against farms and farm workers, and problems with the education system. AI Secretary General Irene Khan [professional profile], returning from a six day trip to Zimbabwe, addressed the concerns of the rights group, saying:

The government must give as much attention to securing human rights reforms as they are to seeking economic resources. There seems to be no sense of real urgency to bring about human rights changes on the part of some government leaders. Words have not been followed by effective action. No serious efforts have been made to reform the security sector. No major investigation or prosecution has been brought against those responsible for state-sponsored political violence in recent years. Some elements of [the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front] still see the use of violence as a legitimate tool to crush political opponents. The combination of these factors could again generate grave human rights abuses in the lead up to future elections.

Khan called on President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai [official website] to instruct party activists to stop their harassment, intimidation, and threats against political opponents and advocates.

Last month, a Zimbabwe court released 15 human rights activists on bail, including activist and journalist Jestina Mukoko [advocacy website; JURIST news archive]. Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) [advocacy website], was indicted with others for allegedly planning a coup against Mugabe. After being held without charges from December through March and allegedly tortured, Mukoko was hospitalized [Zimbabwe Times report] for the treatment of injuries sustained while in custody. While detained, it was reported that Mukoko was forced to ingest poison [JURIST report], sparking a world-wide protest against Zimbabwean police tactics.

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