HR group doubts free and fair elections possible in Zim

HR group doubts free and fair elections possible in Zim

By Chief Reporter
HARARE - A fresh report by a group of human rights physicians says the Zimbabwean government has brutally sought to suppress political opposition with state-sponsored torture and political violence, and doubted that the 2008 general elections polls would be free and fair.

  The report, titled We Have Degrees in Violence : A Report on Torture and Human Rights Abuses in Zimbabwe released Tuesday, documents how victims of political violence have been tortured and subjected to other human rights abuses causing devastating health consequences.
The report notes that the upsurge in political violence occurred following a peaceful prayer rally organized on March 11 by a coalition of Zimbabwean church and civic organizations.
The investigation, the first conducted by international health professionals since the March 11 crackdown, provides fresh evidence that the Zimbabwean government is systematically utilizing torture and violence as a means of deterring political opposition.
This state-sanctioned violence targets low-level political organizers and ordinary citizens, in addition to prominent members of the political opposition, says the report.
The group of human rights doctors says the government is overwhelmingly responsible for the terror.
Junior Information minister Bright Matonga dismissed the report as a figment of the doctors’ imagination.
The report comes as negotiators in inter-party talks between Mugabe’s ruling Zanu (PF) party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) aimed at defusing tension in the country reaches a stalemate over the ruling party’s apparent reluctance to put a lid to the escalating State-sponsored repression
The report says terror and torture are some of tools which are key to Mugabe’s campaign to win the March 2008 joint presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections, where he is likely to face a strong challenge from the main opposition led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
The findings raise profound concerns as to whether elections scheduled for 2008 will be free and fair, says the report.
It reports victims being detained under inhuman conditions and denied appropriate access to medical and legal assistance.
Members of civil society, including doctors and lawyers assisting victims of political violence, also described being subjected to harassment by government authorities, says the report.
It says much of the violence was carried out by State security agents, members of the Central Intelligence Organisation, military intelligence, youths from the ruling Zanu (PF) party and war veterans.
The physicians added that politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe is widespread and increasing on a daily basis.
It says the government was responsible for all the cases it studied and the violence was carried out in a way that clearly indicated planning and strategy.

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