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UN experts concerned about deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe

29 April 2008

United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders today issued a joint statement of concern regarding the situation in Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the 29 March parliamentary and presidential elections.

GENEVA-- Reliable information received by the mandate holders suggest that since the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections acts of intimidation, violence and torture are occurring as a form of retribution against, or victimization of people or groups suspected to have voted for or otherwise supported the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). There are reports that security forces, paramilitary groups and gangs have deployed in particular in rural areas, townships and farms, where the MDC reportedly gathered more votes than the ZANU-PF, and are attacking the homes of suspected MDC supporters and persons involved in the elections for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC): at least 351 persons were hospitalized for injuries; several cases of politically motivated murders occurred; nearly three hundred homes were destroyed through politically motivated arson; and fifteen women were abducted. As a result of the violence, hundreds of families and individuals –mostly women and children- have been displaced internally, and some are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Approximately 70 MDC members and 34 ZEC presiding and polling officers have been arrested, while national observers and other human rights defenders are being threatened because of their non-violent activities in defense of human rights, in particular their denouncing of the current situation.

The Special Procedures mandate holders express grave concern that these attacks are organised and coordinated. The fact that in parallel, the State-controlled media is airing programmes and songs encouraging violence, such as “Mr. Government”, which celebrates the Government’s land seizures and calls for the decimation of perceived political sell-outs or another song encouraging people to take up arms and fight for their freedom, is particularly worrying.

Increasing harassment of independent journalists and media personnel by the police, including arrests and detention, may be seen as attempts to impede any objective reporting on the situation.

The Special Procedures mandate holders strongly urge the authorities of Zimbabwe to restore peace in the country and put an end to organised and politically motivated violence. They also urge the authorities to grant free access to all the regions of the country to independent observers and media personnel.

This statement is issued by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr Philip Alston; the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Yakin Ertürk; the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Mr. Miloon Khotari; the Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr Ambeyi Ligabo; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Ms Hina Jilani; and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, Mr Manfred Nowak.