Amnesty to closely monitor Zim human rights crisis for next 100 days
By Alex Bell
23 June 2009
Human rights organisation Amnesty International says it will closely monitor the human rights situation in Zimbabwe for the next 100 days, to test the commitment of the unity government to real reforms in the country.
Amnesty’s Secretary General, Irene Khan, met with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the UK on Monday, after wrapping up a six-day visit to Zimbabwe last Thursday. She reported back last week that the unity government had made too little progress in tackling human rights violations in the country where, among other things, political activists continue to face persecution by the courts. She also reported that ZANU PF and the security forces still regarded the use of violence as “a legitimate tool to crush political opponents.”
“The government must give as much attention to securing human rights reforms as they are to seeking economic resources,” Khan said in a press statement, released while Tsvangirai was continuing with his cross-continental tour to re-engage with the West.
Khan also emphasised that the human rights situation remained grim despite promises of reform from the unity government, laid out in the agreement that formed the basis of the government’s formation. Minutes after Khan spoke, her testimony became self-evident, when police used extreme force to clamp down on peaceful protesters from pressure group, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). Four badly beaten WOZA women were arrested and detained overnight, while three journalists were also arrested for documenting the police brutality.
The Prime Minister told the Amnesty chief during their meeting on Monday that the direction for reform in Zimbabwe ‘had been set’. He also said that he and the unity government were committed to ensuring the implementation of the human rights provisions included in the Global Political Agreement, saying this was a priority.
Amnesty’s Africa Researcher, Simeon Mawanza, who was part of the delegation that toured Zimbabwe last week, told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the organisation still has grave concerns about the ongoing rights abuses in Zimbabwe. He explained that the 100-day monitoring period will establish whether the Prime Minister’s commitments to reforms will be translated into action.
Meanwhile, deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara last week lashed out at the Amnesty International Secretary General, saying the findings of her trip were a result of ‘hallucinations’. His comments have drawn criticism from observers, who say his attack on Amnesty is alarmingly Mugabe-esque. In the past, Mugabe barred independent human rights monitors from visiting the country and Khan’s visit was regarded as significant, despite the fact that she did not get to meet Mugabe in person. Mugabe has also frequently called the organisation ‘Amnesty Lies International’.
The state’s traditional mouthpiece, the Herald newspaper, last Friday also criticised the Amnesty report as ‘one-sided’ and state radio said it was “not worth the paper it is written on.” ZANU PF unsurprisingly also rejected Amnesty International’s report about continuing human rights violations in Zimbabwe. The Herald newspaper quoted Vice President Joyce Mujuru as saying that national reconciliation was going ahead in Zimbabwe and there was no need for outside interference.
“Some of us have already started talking to our people,” the Herald quoted
Mujuru as saying. “We love our people to be together. Being Zimbabweans, our culture does not allow noisy people.”