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UN Human Rights Chief Voices Concern Over Abuse in Zimbabwe


The UN's top human rights official, Louise Arbour, says she is very concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe and is urging political leaders to restrain their supporters. Arbour's concerns and calls for an end to violence are echoed by six special UN human rights investigators. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), Louise Arbour, says she is alarmed by reports of continuing violence in the aftermath of the Zimbabwe elections.

Arbour's spokesman, Rupert Colville, tells VOA the High Commissioner is worried that national and regional efforts to diffuse the present political crisis will be undermined if serious and systematic human rights violations persist in the country.

"We have received lots of reports from different, very credible sources of acts of violence, serious human rights violations, very violent beatings by a sort of slightly nebulous array of different forces, apparently including people who work for the State's apparatus," he said.

Six UN special human rights investigators have issued a joint statement condemning the worsening rights situation in Zimbabwe. The experts investigate extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; violence against women; adequate housing; freedom of opinion and expression; human rights defenders and the question of torture.

In their statement, they note more than 350 people have been hospitalized for injuries, several cases of politically motivated murders have occurred, nearly 300 houses were destroyed and 15 women abducted.

They say hundreds of families and individuals, mostly women and children, have been internally displaced and some are seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

They say attacks against supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) appear to be organized and coordinated. Rupert Colville says Arbour's office has received information of an emerging pattern of political violence inflicted mainly on rural supporters of the MDC party.

"I actually talked to someone a few days ago who just visited some people who had been injured and was in quite a state of shock about the nature of the injuries," he added. "One man he saw was so badly beaten that the skin was completely shredded and you could actually see right through to the bone."

Colville says non-governmental organizations, election monitors, human rights defenders, journalists and other representatives of civil society are the main victims of threats, intimidation, abuse and violence.

The High Commissioner and the special UN investigators are urging the authorities of Zimbabwe to put an end to organized and politically motivated violence.