Accessibility links

Zimbabwe Encouraging Human Rights Abuses, says Amnesty - 2002-06-25

The human rights group Amnesty International says Zimbabwe's government is encouraging human rights abuses because it fails to bring rights violators to justice. Officials in Zimbabwe had no immediate reaction.

Amnesty International says it has reported rights abuses in Zimbabwe for decades - from the white-minority Rhodesian government in the 1970s to the political violence surrounding the country's presidential election earlier this year.

But Amnesty spokesman Samkelo Mokhine says most of the human rights violators have never been brought to justice. "Your ordinary Zimbabwean has not had any sense of justice, not only from the 1970s but more particularly from 2000 to 2002," he said.

Mr. Mokhine spoke to reporters in Johannesburg at the release of a new Amnesty International report called Zimbabwe - The Toll of Impunity. It concentrates on what it calls the human rights violations during the past two years.

It says Zimbabwe's government allows militias and war veterans to operate virtually unchecked, either approving of their actions or actively aiding them. It says torture camps are run with the full knowledge of the police.

The report says militia and war veteran activity is also used to hide the government's own involvement in human rights abuses. It says the same is true of a crackdown on the independent media and non-government organizations.

The report accuses Zimbabwe of undermining the police and the independent judiciary. It says that when perpetrators have been convicted in a court of law, they often have been freed after receiving a presidential pardon or clemency.

The group says the pattern of what it calls structural impunity in Zimbabwe creates a climate in which human rights violations flourish. And it says, it intensifies the suffering of victims and their families.

The Amnesty spokesman, Mr. Mokhine, says the rights group wants the United Nations and Zimbabwe's neighbors to increase pressure on the government to restore the rule of law.

"With the presentation of this report, we are hoping to jog the international community, and SADC [Southern African Development Community] more specifically, into action," he said. "Because if we do not do anything on Zimbabwe, what hope are we giving ordinary Zimbabweans? It's a matter of saying we must break the cycle of impunity in Zimbabwe. If we don't break it, it's a crisis that's going to spill out of control."

The report also calls for investigations, both by the government and independent private groups, into allegations of human rights violations. It urges Zimbabwe to repeal or amend laws that do not conform to international human rights standards, and to make sure its police abide by those standards. And, it calls for reforms to ensure the independence of the Zimbabwe's court system.