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Rights Groups Fear Zimbabwe Political Violence Increasing - 2003-12-03


Statistics released by human rights monitors this week show that, while random violence in Zimbabwe is down, arrests and torture of political opponents has increased dramatically.

According to medical officials and human rights workers, 14 people needed hospital treatment during the weekend parliamentary bi-election to fill a vacant seat in the town of Kadoma, a two-hour drive southwest of Harare.

The victims told human rights monitors they had been tortured by an organized group of ruling Zanu-PF supporters. The ruling party ended up winning the off-year election by a wide margin, taking the seat away from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Human rights workers compiling statistics from hospital records and complaints say the pattern of violence has changed since the presidential elections in March of 2002.

The Human Rights Forum reported that, compared with the same period last year, the number of random torture cases dropped by half to 500 through November.

But, a leading human rights activist, who asked not to be named, said Wednesday torture of targeted victims for political reasons has increased dramatically.

"These days victims are usually political leaders within their communities," he said. Most of them have been tortured frequently." He told VOA that last year before the presidential election, torture was often random. Now, he said, the authorities appear to have lists of people who they will arrest in specifically targeted areas.

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