Zimbabwe Must End Crackdown
Freedom House expressed grave concern today over the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's main political opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has said that hundreds of its members have been beaten and detained by government forces after it called a two-day strike to protest President Robert Mugabe in the lead up to legislative elections held March 30.
"The international community should use the current meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva to draw attention to the situation in Zimbabwe and to censure the Mugabe regime," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor.
Despite the violence and voter fraud leading up to the elections, two opposition candidates were elected by wide margins in Harare, defeating the ruling Zanu PF party. The elections dealt a blow to Mr. Mugabe's efforts to consolidate power and revealed remarkable courage and independence among Zimbabwe's citizens.
Hundreds of people have been hospitalized in the attacks and witness reports describe the perpetrators as members of Zimbabwe's armed forces and allied militias, recognizable by their National Army uniforms. There are reports of torture by electrocution and beatings with clubs and chains. Some women have reportedly been singled out for sexual assault, including rape.
President Mugabe's boasts of being a "black Hitler," and his threats that those who defy the government will be "consumed with fire," should be seen as deliberate incitement.
"What we are witness to is nothing less than the wholesale, systematic terrorizing of a population by an autocratic regime desperate to destroy its democratic opposition," said Ms. Windsor.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.