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Report Says Violence Against Zimbabwe Activists Escalates


A Human Rights Watch report accuses Zimbabwean authorities of intensifying their violent repression of dissent.

The Human Rights Watch report says during the past year Zimbabwe's government stepped up its violent campaign against those who protest its social, economic, and human-rights policies.

The report says the government is intensifying efforts to intimidate, silence, and punish those who expose abuses and exercise basic rights.

The report notes in the beginning of the Zimbabwean political crisis, veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war, members of the youth militia and ruling party supporters were to blame for the abuses. But now uniformed forces are the main culprits.

Human Rights Watch blames the government for taking no clear action to halt the rising incidence of torture and ill treatment of activists in the custody of police or the intelligence services.

President Mugabe recently said trade-union activists who were arrested while trying to organize a demonstration and then beaten in police custody got what they deserved. The Human Rights Watch report says the president's statements appear to condone acts of torture and other serious rights violations.

The report accuses the police of having arbitrarily arrested hundreds of activists during routine meetings or peaceful demonstrations, often with excessive force, and in some cases subjected those in custody to severe beatings that amounted to torture, and other mistreatment.

Information Minister Paul Mangwana dismissed the report, telling the French news agency, AFP, that there was nothing new in it. He called the report part of a six-year campaign against the Zimbabwe government.

The report is based on a Human Rights Watch research mission that visited Harare this month and last month. The mission interviewed 35 people, including victims of human-rights violations, medical experts, lawyers, human-rights activists, and foreign diplomats.