HRW Urges European Union to Keep Pressure on Mugabe

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RAPAPORT… Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the European Union to maintain travel restrictions and asset freezes on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle until Zimbabwe carries out human rights reform measures. The European Union is conducting its annual review of  sanctions on Zimbabwe and is scheduled to announce a decision on March 17.

HRW criticized Mugabe’s political party, ZANU-PF, for failing to abide by an earlier agreement to promote freedom of speech,  end politically motivated violence, and apply national laws fully and impartially to hold those responsible for abuses accountable.  HRW contended that the ZANU-PF has been the main obstacle to making progress in carrying out those reforms.

”Mugabe’s ZANU-PF is committing grave human rights abuses against all perceived opponents,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa’s director at HRW. ”Easing the sanctions now would send the wrong message and reinforce the repression and impunity in Zimbabwe.”

The group’s ongoing research from  Zimbabwe shows that while the country’s economic situation has significantly improved since the power-sharing government’s inception in 2009 between ZANU-PF and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),  there has been little progress made on human rights reforms.

One example they cited — both political parties agreed to establish a human rights commission three years ago, but it still does not have a statute that would to allow it to become operational.

HRW also found that  those in support of human rights along with critics of the Mugabe government are arbitrarily arrested and detained and otherwise harassed. For example, on February 7, police arrested 10 members of the nongovernmental organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) as they peacefully demonstrated in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, according to HRW.  The women were detained for two days and then released on bail. Seventeen members of the same group had been arrested on January 19, and released on the same day. On December 5, 2011, the authorities arrested three activists from the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) in Gwanda, after they held a community meeting on public information rights in November. The three activists spent 11 days in detention before they were released on bail.

More than three years after Zimbabwe’s presidential election run-off, the power-sharing government has not investigated widespread abuses, including beatings, killings, and torture committed by the army and supporters and officials of ZANU-PF against those supporting MDC.  There has also been no justice for victims of serious abuses that took place during elections in 2002 and 2005, and for the victims of Zimbabwe’s violent land reform program.

Some government-owned companies that are subject to European Union sanctions, such as the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), are actively involved in mining diamonds in eastern Zimbabwe, where HRW uncovered rampant abuses by the armed forces, including forced labor, child labor, extrajudicial killings, beatings, smuggling, and corruption. There has been no accountability for these abuses, according to HRW.

The European Union in 2002 began imposing restrictions  on Mugabe and about 200 senior ZANU-PF officials, as well as on some state-owned companies with close ties to the party. The U.S. maintains similar sanctions against Mugabe, his family members and inner circle, as well as on the government-run entities involved with diamond mining and distribution.

”European Union concessions on sanctions will not get ZANU-PF to end its abuses,” Bekele said. ”To the contrary, removing sanctions will give Mugabe and his party free rein for continued repression ahead of elections.”

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