News / Africa

Rights Group Sounds Alarm over Zimbabwe Pre-Election Abuses

Zimbabwean police patrol the streets of the capital Harare, March 1, 2011.
Zimbabwean police patrol the streets of the capital Harare, March 1, 2011.
Anita Powell
— Human Rights Watch said Zimbabwean security forces loyal to President Robert Mugabe have been beating, intimidating and abusing people they see as critical of the government ahead of a presidential vote planned for July. The report from the New York-based watchdog comes ahead of a special summit intended to iron out problems related to the election.  

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the abuse of critics by police officers and soldiers appears to be intensifying ahead of a presidential vote in Zimbabwe slated for July.

The rights watchdog says researchers have found recent instances of arrests, beatings and intimidation of Zimbabweans thought to support the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. That former opposition party became part of a shaky coalition ordered by mediators after the violent 2008 elections.

Officials from President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party did not answer repeated calls seeking comment. But the administration has previously denied and dismissed similar allegations.

Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court said just days ago that Mugabe must hold elections by July 31. The president has repeatedly said he wants to end the coalition. But Tsvangirai has said it is not possible to implement all of the needed electoral and democratic reforms before the proposed election date.

Human Rights Watch is calling on the government to enact urgent reforms to rein in the security forces. But with the election less than two months away, that too may be difficult. The Southern African Development community has called for a special summit Sunday to address the Zimbabwe vote.

Dewa Mavhinga, a senior researcher for Zimbabwe and Southern Africa with the Africa division at Human Rights Watch, said it’s important that the international community apply pressure before the poll to ensure a level playing field for all candidates.

“We insist that in a multiparty democracy, a human-rights respecting environment should have security forces being politically neutral and not taking any side," said Mavhinga. "Otherwise, there would be no point of having elections when the army says they will not respect the outcome of an election if it does not favor ZANU-PF.”

Tiseke Kasambala, Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said the rights group did not find any instances of abuses by MDC loyalists, only by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF members. But, she said, that doesn’t mean the rights group wants Zimbabweans to vote against Mugabe.  

“Human Rights Watch obviously does not have any position in terms of who wins elections," she said. "However, what we are saying is that the human rights environment in Zimbabwe, and the electoral environment, are very much skewed towards ZANU-PF and President Mugabe.  And what we’re also arguing is that the role of the security forces in electoral affairs in the country is unlikely to make for free, fair, or credible elections.”

Mugabe, who is 89, has said he intends to run for president again. In some ways, the future of ZImbabwe is difficult to imagine without him.

After all, he is the only post-independence leader Zimbabwe has ever had.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid