Human Rights Watch is calling on the Southern Africa Development Community [SADC] to press Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe on human rights issues. The group refers to what it calls harassment and arbitrary arrests of civil society activists and political opponents. This, as SADC prepares to meet in Zambia tomorrow to consider a report on Zimbabwe.
The organization sent its latest petition to SADC after a similar protest was ignored in the past.
“We see it yet as another opportunity to highlight our concerns with what’s happening in Zimbabwe and our concerns of the possibility of escalation of violence in the country, which is something the SADC cannot afford to ignore,” says Tiseke Kasambala, senior researcher at the African Division of Human Rights Watch.
In the past several international, regional and local groups have unsuccessfully pressed President Mugabe to call his supporters to order and stop attacks on his opponents by Zimbabwe’s security agencies.
“The reason why Mugabe has the opportunity to ignore some of these calls is because SADC has simply not been strong enough in calling him to account,” says Kasambala.
She says President Mugabe is bound by an agreement he signed with the Movement for Democratic Change [MDC] to rein in his supporters and form an inclusive government.
“When you look at the Global Political Agreement, which paved the way for this inclusive government, it highlighted several points which talked about ending political violence and restoring rule of law,” she says.