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GOVERNMENT OF ZIMBABWE MUST IMMEDIATELY HALT USE OF LETHAL FORCE AGAINST UNARMED POLITICAL ACTIVISTS

2 April 2007


Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, issued the statement that follows today. Mr. Alston is an independent expert appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council

"The Zimbabwe Government must immediately halt its use of lethal force against unarmed political activists”, according to a United Nations human rights expert.

Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said that such a practice represented a clear violation of international human rights law. "The Government is, in effect, instructing its forces to shoot innocent people, in complete disregard for the right to life. In particular, such an approach reflects no attempt to balance the rights to political participation and to freedom of expression and association with any legitimate notion of the need to maintain public order", he said.

The Special Rapporteur noted that the killing of Gift Tandare, the shooting of Nickson Magondo and Naison Mashambanhaka at point blank range and the deaths of 8-10 persons at Harare hospitals from injuries consistent with being beaten by state security agents with blunt instruments are particularly troubling. Full, independent investigations must be undertaken as soon as possible.

Surveying the relevant international legal standards, he concluded that military and police officers may use lethal force only when doing so is strictly necessary for self-defence or the defence of another's life. Governments that order their forces to shoot are violating international human rights law.

"Under international law, widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population are crimes against humanity", Mr. Alston added. 'Members of the police and military who comply with orders to gun down demonstrators will eventually be held to account".