In association with Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark
The Presidential Election in Zimbabwe will take place on 9 and 10th March 2002. During election campaigns over the last two years, violations of human and democratic rights have been well documented. Furthermore, attacks on the judiciary, the media and civil society have been consistently recorded over the last two years.
The international community has, throughout this time, tried to keep a dialogue open, and to influence positive changes in the policy of the government of Zimbabwe, to enable its citizens to elect the president of their choice, in an environment that is free and fair.
Despite repeated assurances and pledges, including the signing of the Abuja Accord, the Zimbabwean government shows no convincing indication of complying with the basic human and democratic rights needed for a free and fair election. On the contrary, a new Public Order and Security Bill will undermine basic civil rights such as the rights to freedom of association, expression and speech, eg: making criticism of the president an imprisonable criminal offence.
Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark, visited Zimbabwe in January 2002, to assess the current human rights situation. Unequivocal evidence of torture was documented. Furthermore, we received statements about killings, death threats, harassments, including strategic robbery of Identity Documents needed for voting. All documented human rights violations were reported to have been committed by supporters of the present government for political reasons, in a way that is clearly indicative of planning and strategy.
Our findings are in accordance with observations by other national and international human rights organizations over the last two years. The pre-election period is currently extremely violent and intimidatory. All evidence including our observations clearly indicates that politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe is widespread and increasing on a daily basis.
The government of Zimbabwe shows one attitude to the international community, and another to the citizens of Zimbabwe. While President Mugabe has repeatedly promised in international fora that he will restore law and order, at home he describes his political opponents as “terrorists” against whom he is waging “total war”.
The international community has repeatedly urged that law and order should be restored and that the possibility of free and fair elections should be enhanced through the presence of international observers and media. Mr Mugabe’s replies have varied from a qualified agreement to these conditions, to complete rejection.
The fact is, that Zimbabwe is now days away from a crucial election, and there is yet to be any formal invitation to observers, and the new Public Order and Security Bill gives the ruling party exceptionally autocratic powers to undermine the democratic rights of the citizens of Zimbabwe.