(Johannesburg) - The African Union should immediately send election observers and human rights monitors to Zimbabwe to promote free and fair voting in the presidential runoff election on June 27, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the African Union Commission’s chair, Jean Ping.
Human Rights Watch also urged the African Union to publicly call for an immediate end to the violence that has raged in Zimbabwe since general elections on March 29, 2008.
“The African Union should publicly demand that the Zimbabwean government halt its campaign of violence, torture and intimidation,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Unless the current situation is reversed, more civilians will be brutalized and die. The African Union’s immediate deployment of human rights monitors and observers throughout the country can help deter further abuses and save lives.”
Human Rights Watch called on the African Union to ensure that any monitors deployed to Zimbabwe be given a robust mandate to investigate any reports or allegations of abuse, have full freedom of movement and access to local civil society organizations, and publish their findings.
Zimbabwe’s ruling party is responsible for almost all of the violence. Human Rights Watch researchers in Zimbabwe have documented widespread and systematic violence by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) since the general elections. In the provinces of Masvingo, Manicaland and Mashonaland West, East and Central, ZANU-PF officials and supporters, “war veterans,” the army and police have been carrying out a violent campaign of beatings, torture and killings against opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters. Despite the political agreement to hold a runoff presidential election, the ZANU-PF violence has continued.
Since the March elections, Human Rights Watch has found that at least 27 people have died, hundreds have been beaten and tortured, and thousands of others have been displaced and are in urgent need of protection. A runoff election will have no credibility without an end to the violence and accountability for the abuses, Human Rights Watch said (https://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/05/02/zimbab18734.htm).
Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the violence may worsen in the weeks leading up to the runoff. Human Rights Watch has documented how ZANU-PF officials, the military and local chiefs and headmen are inciting and organizing the violence around the country by holding daily “re-education” meetings involving beatings and torture to deter people from supporting or voting for the MDC. Roads leading to villages in some provinces have been blocked off, preventing entire communities from fleeing the violence.
“All those responsible for inciting and organizing the horrendous violence should also be investigated and brought to justice,” said Gagnon.