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Human Rights Watch Says Rule of Law Should be Restored in Zimbabwe


The international group Human Rights Watch is calling on southern African leaders to use Sunday's summit in Johannesburg to insist Zimbabwe's ruling party observe the rule of law and stop abusing its citizens.

In a statement released Saturday, the New York-based group says it has documented evidence of how President Robert Mugabe's government has compromised the judiciary, magistrates and prosecutors and turned the police into an unaccountable wing of the ZANU-PF party.

Human Rights Watch says Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF has routinely and arbitrarily arrested and detained opposition members without filing charges.

The group says the government has continued the abuses even after the signing of a political power-sharing agreement September 15 in which it formally committed to respect human rights.

The group has called on the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) to insist the Zimbabwe government observe the rule of law and fulfill its commitments.

The SADC is due to meet in Johannesburg Sunday to try and solve an impasse between Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai over allocating ministerial posts as part of a September agreement.

But one of Zimbabwe's most ferocious critics within the grouping, Botswana's President Ian Khama, is not expected to attend. He is traveling instead to the United States to take part in a bio-diversity conference.

This week, Zimbabwe's justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, condemned as an "extreme provocation" a suggestion from President Khama that Zimbabwe should hold new elections to solve its stalemate.

Opposition leader Tsvangirai boycotted a second round runoff in the presidential election in June, citing violence and irregularities.

The opposition won a slim majority in the parliamentary election, ending the ruling party's grip on power held since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.

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