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Political Violence Increases in Zimbabwe

A human rights coalition, in what may well be its last report on the situation in Zimbabwe, says political violence and repression continued to rise in September. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum says there was growing and unlawful use of excessive force by the Zimbabwe Republic Police against perceived opponents of the government.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum is a coalition of 17 pro-democracy non-governmental organizations. Next week it expects to be banned when a new law outlawing non-governmental organizations involved in human rights and governance is expected to pass through its final stage in parliament.

Its September report therefore may be its last.

This report notes that much of the political violence in September centered around the fifth anniversary of the birth of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

During that month, the Forum said it interviewed and verified six cases of torture and another six kidnappings. All the victims were MDC supporters. It says there were 141 cases of unlawful arrests of citizens by the police in September.

The report also highlights the alleged forced removals of hundreds of people, including women and children from an informal settlement 25 kilometers north of Harare. Several of those were reportedly tear gassed and needed medical treatment. Amnesty International says at least 11 people subsequently died.

Many houses in the informal settlement were burned down despite a court order allowing the people to remain there.

Also in the report was the arrest of scores of women and civil rights activists during a demonstration against the law which will outlaw NGO's involved in human rights and governance.

The Forum also reported alleged attacks against MDC member of parliament, Blessing Chebundo, and a group of his supporters by about 200 alleged members of the ruling Zanu PF.

Mr. Chebundo has been identified by human rights monitors as one of the most persecuted legislators in Zimbabwe.

The Forum has been collecting statistics for more than three years. It records incidents only when victims volunteer to tell their stories, which are then checked against police and medical reports, and sworn as affidavits.

The Forum maintains the picture it paints therefore, is largely of events in urban areas, where access is easier.

There were no government officials available for comment Friday.

But the Zimbabwe government did participate in a meeting of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights in Senegal this week. It said in a paper presented to the African Union that the Forum's reports on human rights abuses in Zimbabwe are biased. It says the Forum is "mischievous" and asserted the organization repeated the same alleged abuses to "give the impression of serious violation of human rights in Zimbabwe."