Addressing Impunity

The current negotiations meant to lead to a transitional or power-sharing agreement will not ensure an end to the violence in Zimbabwe. The government of Zimbabwe at the highest levels is responsible for numerous, systematic human rights violations. As highlighted in this report and in “Bullets for Each of You”: State-Sponsored Violence since Zimbabwe’s March 29 Elections, ZANU-PF, the military and government-backed militia forces, have committed and continue to commit serious crimes with the apparent knowledge and at times the involvement of senior government, military and ruling party officials. The extent to which the highest levels of the government, including President Mugabe, are responsible for ordering crimes or as a matter of command responsibility remains to be investigated.

The refusal of the Zimbabwean government to prosecute politically motivated crimes reflects the country’s longstanding history of impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch strongly believes that accountability for serious past crimes is the foundation for a durable transition and Zimbabwe’s longer term political stability based on the rule of law and respect for human rights. Impunity for atrocities committed in the past sends the message that such crimes may be tolerated in the future. Ending political strife and obtaining justice for past abuses should be seen as complementary, not contradictory, objectives.

Any future government in Zimbabwe will need to address the issue of accountability for past and recent human rights violations by government officials, including at the highest levels. Independent, impartial and transparent investigations and prosecutions in accordance with international fair trial standards are a necessary component to finding justice and ending Zimbabwe’s long political nightmare.