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Human Rights Groups Outline Possible Legal Case Against Robert Mugabe


While powering sharing talks between the ruling and opposition parties continue in Zimbabwe, an effort is underway to bring President Mugabe before the International Criminal Court. The ENOUGH Project has issued a report outlining the legal options that could be taken against Mr. Mugabe.

One of the authors of the report is Syracuse University law professor David Crane, who is the former chief prosecutor for the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. He spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua, who asked whether it's feasible to take legal action against President Mugabe while political talks continue.

"Yes, absolutely. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe can and should be prosecuted for the crimes against humanity perpetrated against his people since 1981. And we're looking at over tens of thousands of his own citizens, which he has allegedly murdered. This is a very important time for Africa. We see (Sudanese President) Bashir possibly indicted and we see the example of (former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan) Karadzic being found after well over 10 years being on the run. Robert Mugabe is seeing all this…. He sees former president Taylor of Liberia sitting in the dock for being tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity and he's beginning to hear footsteps," he says.

Crane says the Zimbabwean leader realizes he needs to take action to avoid being on trial himself. "So, not surprisingly, he's willing to sit down with the very opposition that he was trying to kill just five weeks ago," he says.

The law professor says there are a number of charges that could be filed against Mr. Mugabe: "Certainly, Article 7 of the Rome Statute, related to crimes against humanity, is illustrative of the types of crimes that he has perpetrated against his own people. And these are the areas that we would certainly be considering when we were investigating and possibly drafting charges against him. Things like persecution, imprisonment and other severe deprivation of personal liberty, as well as inhumane acts that intentionally cause great suffering, all pursuant to a state policy," he says.

The legal case against President Mugabe is laid out in a paper from the ENOUGH Project and Impunity Watch called Justice for Zimbabwe, which Crane co-authored. It's available at www.enoughproject.org or www.impunitywatch.net.

Asked whether he thinks the international community could unite to take such strong action against the Zimbabwean leader, he says, "It boils down to a political decision. The justice part, the legal part is manifest and can be done. But it all boils down to that bright red threat in all of this called politics. It'll be a political decision, particularly by the African Union, particularly by regional leaders, such as Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, to realize that African leaders who destroy their own citizens have to be held accountable."

The white paper says, "It is realistic to consider an amnesty or a type of immunity arrangement (under threat of indictment) is Mugabe agrees to step aside and leave Zimbabwe for good." Crane explains, "You have to be realistic related to his age. He is well into his 80s. The probability of him living to be not only indicted and prosecuted, you know, there's an actuarial issue there.… Realistically, I'm not sure if President Mugabe would live long enough to actually see the end of his trial."

He says one the issue of how to deal with Mr. Mugabe is addressed, new elections could be held. After that, it would be time to look into prosecuting those he calls Mugabe's "henchmen."

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