Accessibility links

US to Pursue Human Rights Changes in Zimbabwe

The United States has welcomed the release for medical care of Zimbabwean opposition leaders injured Sunday when riot police broke up a protest event near Harare. U.S. officials are promising to pursue diplomacy aimed at improving human rights conditions in Zimbabwe. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The State Department says it is pleased that Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and others injured Sunday have been allowed to get medical care.

But it is also making clear it does not consider the matter closed, and that the United States will pursue the issue diplomatically, including in the new U.N. Human Rights Council.

The release for hospital treatment of Tsvangirai and other activists followed international condemnation of the Sunday incident, including from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who said it again showed that the government of President Robert Mugabe is "ruthless and repressive."

In a talk with reporters, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said Tsvangerai, being treated for a possible skull fracture, and the others injured were victims of "terrible physical abuse" after seeking only to meet and peacefully express their views.

He said senior State Department officials including Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer were involved in diplomacy on the issue, and that the United States has been in contact with among others the African Union, the European Union, and the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The United States has been a critic of the newly reformed U.N. Human Rights body for an alleged selective focus on Israel, and spokesman Casey said responding effectively to the abuses in Zimbabwe could give the council needed credibility.

"While the [U.N.] Human Rights Council has, as we've noted, not exactly had a superb track record of taking on some of the issues out there, and [has] seemed to focus more specifically on Israel and Israel-related issues, we think this would be certainly the kind of concern that a well-functioning and credible Human Rights Council would want to address," he said.

Just a day ago, the State Department welcomed a report by a U.N. Human Rights Council mission to Darfur, which reported that the Sudanese government had organized and participated in crimes against the Darfur civilian population.

Spokesman Casey said the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, spoke briefly with Tsvangirai at a court hearing Tuesday and planned to have a longer meeting when the opposition figure, a 2002 Zimbabwean presidential candidate, is physically able.

In her statement Tuesday, Secretary Rice said the United States holds Mr. Mugabe responsible for the safety and well being of Tsvangerai and his colleagues.