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Zimbabwe rights defenders facing harassment: report

Human rights defenders in Zimbabwe continue to be harassed, victimized and threatened, according to a report [text, PDF] released Monday by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) [FIDH backgrounder]. The OBS, a joint program of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture [advocacy websites], published the 31-page report entitled "Zimbabwe: Ongoing risks for human rights defenders in the context of political deadlock and pre-electoral period." The report stated that "a climate of impunity still prevails" among Zimbabwean authorities:

Zimbabwean authorities have continued to resort to pieces of legislation to selectively and systematically restrict the space for the enjoyment of freedoms of expression, association and assembly of human rights defenders, and to encourage and condone serious violations of their rights, including arbitrary arrests and detentions or acts of torture.
With the upcoming referendum for a new Zimbabwean Constitution, slated for the end of 2012, and the approaching March 2013 general elections, the OBS fears that human rights defenders will be threatened with a potential rise in violence due to the collusion between security forces and the current presidential party. The OBS submitted many recommendations for reform to Zimbabwean authorities. Among these were the requests that the government guarantee in all circumstances "the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe" along with "the freedoms of opinion and expression."

Zimbabwe has encountered similar human rights issues in the past. In March various human rights groups urged South African courts to prosecute Zimbabwe for violations including torture and forced labor [JURIST reports] of civilian workers in illegal mining camps. In June 2009 Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a report [press release] stating that Zimbabwe was still experiencing serious human rights violations, [JURIST report], such as the arrest and detention of human rights activists, and needed to confront issues that led to such problems.

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