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Zimbabwe Accuses Governments of Demonizing Its Human Rights Record

Zimbabwe's justice minister has accused powerful countries of unfairly singling out his country for alleged serious and systematic violations of human rights. In a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the minister denounced governments for demonizing Zimbabwe's record.

Zimbabwe's minister of justice and legal affairs did not mince his words. In a short, strident address, the minister, Patrick Antony Chinamasa, attacked what he called rampant politicization by certain governments.

He accused so-called powerful states of demonizing a selective group of countries for alleged human rights abuse even though their own records were far from perfect.

"My country has too often been the target of condemnation and shaming on matters of human rights at the hands of a few members of the United Nations who have sought to achieve other ends through the artifice of human rights. We have heard them this week and we have heard them over the past several years. Our response is that we are no worse than other States. We shall endeavor to improve," he said.

The U.N. Human Rights Office has condemned Zimbabwe for the harassment, intimidation and imprisonment of political opponents. It has criticized the government for illegally appropriating the farms of white owners. It has deplored the impoverishment of Zimbabwe's population and the collapse of the country's socio-economic structures, which have resulted in a run-away cholera epidemic.

Minister Chinamasa accused the U.N. High Commissioner's Office of trying to undermine his country's political and judicial system.

He acknowledged Zimbabwe is not without blemishes on human rights issues. But, said his government was concerned by what he called the selectivity, partiality, bias and politicization shown by the U.N. Office. He added his country is not the only violator.

"And, yet the Office decides to name and shame only some," he said. "Lack of mention of sanctions that have brought a lot of suffering on Zimbabwe's people baffles us. We are not saying be silent if you see us not promoting and respecting and protecting human rights. We are only saying we need to hear you loud and clear on all without favor and in respect of human rights violations."

Following this plea, the minister of justice said his government will cooperate with the Human Rights Office and will honor a request by the High Commissioner to visit his country in the near future.

He noted things are moving forward in Zimbabwe with the government of national unity in place. He said his government deserves the support of all, instead of the unrelenting attempts from some quarters to undermine it.