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Human Rights Watch Decries Rights Abuses in Zimbabwe

Human Rights Watch says while levels of violence have decreased since the June 27 presidential runoff in Zimbabwe, rights abuses continue in some parts of the country. The rights group has called for Southern African Development Community leaders to make an end to the violence its top priority at their upcoming summit in South Africa. Tendai Maphosa reports from London.

A new Human Rights Watch report urges the SADC leadership not to focus on quick political fixes and instead seek a durable solution that would put an end to human rights violations.

Referring to the ongoing talks between President Robert Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change, Human Rights Watch's Tiseke Kasambala tells VOA SADC leaders should demand Mr. Mugabe show some political integrity by ending the abuses.

"That is why we are bringing this kind of issues to the table so that SADC leaders take this information that we have to Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF and say 'Look if you really want us to have faith in your ability as a genuine political partner towards the negotiations then you must institute a package of human rights reforms and immediately address certain key human rights issues before any resolution is made with the talks," said Kasambala.

The report says Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF and its allies continue to use camps and bases to beat and torture perceived MDC activists and supporters. It points out that parts of the country are still out of bounds for the media and non-governmental organizations, so it is possible the situation could be even more grave.

Kasambala says while ordinary MDC supporters are being targeted, MDC members of parliament are being singled out for more harassment.

"This targeting of MDC MPs, quite a number of whom are still facing criminal charges even though many of them are out on bail, is for us clear evidence that ZANU-PF as a political party is not coming to the table in good faith and its credibility as a political partner has to be called in to question," she said.

Supporters of Mr. Mugabe's party are accused of launching a violent pre-election campaign before the presidential election runoff. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes in national elections on March 29, but Mugabe government officials said not by a big enough margin to avoid a runoff.

The report says ZANU-PF and its allies were implicated in the killing of at least 60 MDC activists in June. Thirty-two people were killed after June 27 and two more were killed after the July 21 signing of the Memorandum of Understanding that set the stage for the ongoing talks. Human Rights Watch says no arrests have been made nor have the authorities questioned any witnesses in the cases documented in its report.