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Rights Group: 27 Deaths in Zimbabwe Political Violence

A Zimbabwe-based human rights organization says at least 27 people have been killed in political violence in Zimbabwe this year, while 2,000 have been beaten or tortured. The human rights group blames the government for virtually all of the incidents.

Amani Trust, an affiliate of Amnesty International, says President Robert Mugabe's ZANU(PF) party is behind 70 percent of the deaths and assaults in the country, while the police and army are responsible for almost all of the other incidents.

The Amani Trust says there has been what it calls "a dramatic increase" in human rights violations in Zimbabwe in the last two months. That is when 19 of 27 reported killings have occurred, says the trust.

Most of the violence is linked to unrest on commercial farms. Pro-government militants have invaded more than 2,000 commercial farms, and have forced off 70,000 workers and their families.

Colin Cloete, president of Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers Union, says that in the last month, work has stopped on 900 white-owned farms, representing one-fourth of all commercial farms in the country.

The government says it wants to seize at least 3,000 white-owned farms to resettle poor people.

A team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is in Zimbabwe to assess the effects of the farm seizures and invasions as well as the country's worsening economic situation. The IMF and the World Bank stopped lending last year because Zimbabwe failed to keep promises on budgetary spending and economic policies.

The national congress of trade unions says there is the danger of what it calls "a massive national revolt from a hungry population" if the government does not revamp the economy.

Wellington Chibebhe, the general secretary of the congress, says prices of basic commodities are rising 25 percent a week. "People have been pushed too far and they cannot afford to live", says Mr. Chibebhe.

Almost all international donor agencies have withdrawn support from Zimbabwe because they say the government is guilty of human rights abuses.