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Rights Lawyers to Investigate Rape in Zimbabwe

An international advocacy group says it is sending a team of lawyers to Zimbabwe to collect evidence of mass sexual violence, which it says is part of an anti-opposition campaign by supporters of President Robert Mugabe.

The group, AIDS-Free World, says Zimbabwean women and girls have been subjected to gang rape, beatings, torture and the threat of HIV infection in a campaign of violence by the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Speaking Thursday at a press event at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico, a Zimbabwean women's rights activist, Betty Makoni, said many of the victims are relatives of people involved with the political opposition.

AIDS-Free World says at least 53 women and girls have stepped forward to document their cases so that justice can be pursued.

Makoni said some of the rapists are members of the ZANU-PF youth militia.

She said many rape survivors who sought medical treatment at state hospitals were turned away by doctors who feared repercussions for treating them.

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has accused backers of Mr. Mugabe of killing dozens of MDC activists and injuring thousands more in the weeks before Zimbabwe's June presidential run-off election. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the election, citing state-sponsored attacks against his supporters.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.