Statement on Zimbabwe - Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has for many months now expressed its ongoing concern about the developing crisis in Zimbabwe, and urged the immediate suspension of the Mugabe regime from the Commonwealth. Continuing political intimidation and the progressive decline of living standards for most Zimbabweans, show no sign of diminishing in the run-up to the presidential election on 9 and 10 March, 2002. The forced closure of safe houses run by Amani Trust, for victims of torture and terror, indicates the depths to which the country has descended. Commonwealth action is now imperative and we urgently request that the following undertakings be made:

1 A stay of imposition of discriminatory legislation recently passed by the Zimbabwe Parliament, which threatens press freedom and the fair conduct of the election.

2 The honouring of President Mugabe's promise to invite international election observers, and the arrival as soon as possible of long-term observers.

3 An announcement by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, at its meeting on 30 January, that an election result which is deemed not to represent the wishes of the Zimbabwean people will not be recognised, and will lead to Commonwealth sanctions against those associated with a fraudulent victory.

4 Humanitarian relief for Zimbabweans, particularly in rural areas and high-density suburbs, who are now suffering from hunger and the collapse of medical services.

5 An allocation of funding by the British Government, in a Commonwealth escrow account, to be held pending a just and equitable land reform in Zimbabwe.

6 A plan by Commonwealth leaders to meet the different scenarios which may follow the March presidential election.

As the premier non-governmental coalition in the Commonwealth concerned to uphold and promote human rights, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative stands ready to assist the people of Zimbabwe and other international partners in the task of rebuilding Zimbabwe.

Signed: Richard Bourne, Chair, Trustee Committee, United Kingdom



21 January 2002
AI Index AFR 46/003/2002 - News Service Nr. 12
Zimbabwe: Baseless allegations against civil society are an open invitation to attack them
Baseless allegations against a human rights organization printed in Zimbabwe's state-controlled daily newspaper signal the newest phase in the government's campaign to undermine civil society, Amnesty International said today. On 17 and 18 January 2002, the Zimbabwe Herald newspaper alleged that Amani Trust has been "funding covert operations against Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)"; that it is financially linked to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and that its assistance to the victims of political violence is actually a means of carrying out torture. "This is a contemptible twisting of facts -- to describe an organization assisting victims of torture as perpetrating torture," Amnesty International said. "We unreservedly condemn the campaign of slander that attempts to portray Amani Trust or other human rights organizations as politically motivated and involved in political violence. We are concerned that this gives a green light to state-sponsored militia to perpetrate violence against human rights defenders." Amani Trust, a leading human rights organization, began operations in 1994, and has worked consistently with victims of torture both from the liberation war before 1980 and victims of the present political violence. Attacks by the state-controlled media have often led to physical attacks by ruling party supporters or to baseless, politically motivated arrests by the Zimbabwe Republic Police. For example, state-controlled newspapers, radio and TV have imputed terrorist activities to MDC opposition members, who then became victims of human rights violations, while ZANU-PF members in a majority of cases have been perpetrators. Amnesty International believes that these Herald articles have created a public perception that heightens the threat of violence by ruling party supporters against the human rights community, in a similar manner in which the MDC and other opposition party activists have been assaulted following articles in the state-run media. "We are alarmed at the prospect that Amani would be targeted in the same manner as Zimrights -- another leading human rights organization -- and the way the independent press has currently been victimized," Amnesty International said. Amnesty International notes that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's remarks on 15 January 2002 which expressed concern about stifling of freedoms of assembly, association and expression. It further welcomed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson's statement that immediate action is needed in the "real human rights crisis", with "documented cases of rights abuses against members of opposition groups, the independent media and human rights organizations". "Given the level of UN concern, and the commitment undertaken by President Mugabe to undertake full and impartial investigations of allegations of political violence, it is imperative for the president to extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteurs working with Commissioner Mary Robinson to conduct investigations into the freedom of the press, torture, political killings and the independence of the judiciary," Amnesty International said. \ENDS public document
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Media Release

Mugabe crack-down on human rights defenders
..Reports in state-owned Zimbabwe media indicates that the government is.preparing to crack down on human rights activists...According to unfounded allegations in the state-owned Zimbabwean newspaper."The Herald", the AMANI Trust in Zimbabwe is funding safe houses for.criminals and pay them 200 dollars a day for undertaking nocturnal raids.where members of President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party are beaten up and destroyed...The director of Amani Trust, Mr. Anthony P. Reeler is a member of the.Council and the Executive Committee of the International Rehabilitation.Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)...The Secretary General of the IRCT, Jens Modvig, MD PhD, says:.."Mr. Reeler as well as Amani Trust and its activities are well-known to the.IRCT and the international human rights community. Amani trust is a bona.fide health professional organisation that offers assistance to victims of.violence. The accusations put forward by the Herald-article "Amani Trust.funding covert operations against Zanu-PF" Thursday 17 January 2002 are.absurd and would not deserve any respond if it was not because of the sad.context"...Dr. Modvig refers to the security bill that was recently passed by the.Zimbabwean parliament. The bill is a criminalisation of criticism of Mr.Mugabe. It gives the police new powers to disperse demonstrations..Furthermore new election regulations ban foreign and local independent.monitors. Another controversial bill on control over the media means that.journalist need to get accreditation from the Information Ministry every.year and risk imprisonment for writing "unauthorised" accounts of cabinet.discussions..."I am concerned about the safety of Mr. Reeler and Amani Trust staff. In.the present situation and considering the human rights record of Zimbabwe's.government, I call upon the international community to closely monitor the.situation in Zimbabwe and be alert. It seems obvious that Zimbabwe's.president, Robert Mugabe, is ready to further violate human rights in win the presidential election coming up in March. According to a IRCT and the Danish Centre for Research and Rehabilitation of Torture.Victims Zimbabweans have been subjected to torture. Obviously a.rehabilitation centre treating victims of political violence is, like press and others who can monitor, document and publicise violations.too dangerous for Mr. Mugabe", Dr. Modvig says.

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