Zimbabwe’s new government has to tackle culture of impunity

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe signed a power-sharing agreement with the Movement for Democratic Change's leaders on Monday, 15 September 2008 in an attempt to resolve the political crisis that has been developing since 2000 and escalated sharply in the last six months.

The crisis has been characterised by a series of politically-motivated violations of civil, political, social and economic rights against real and perceived opponents of President Mugabe. Those who instigated or committed these violations have enjoyed almost total impunity.

In the run-up to the 27 June presidential election run-off, the country saw a wave of state-sponsored human rights violations that left at least 165 people killed, thousands tortured and nearly 30,000 people internally displaced. How Zimbabwe’s unity government will tackle important questions of justice and impunity remains unclear.

Amnesty International has said that the validity of the deal would be seriously compromised if it includes amnesties or pardons that prevent human rights violators being brought to justice, the emergence of the truth, and full reparations to victims.

“Nothing should be agreed that would prevent the full emergence of the truth – and those responsible for the gross human rights violations that took place must be brought to justice,” said Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s expert on Zimbabwe who recently returned from speaking to victims of state-sponsored violence in the country.

“The victims of human rights violations are demanding justice for the crimes they have suffered – and they deserve no less than that. It will be a great betrayal of these victims if national, regional and international leaders were to support pre-trial amnesties for perpetrators of human rights violations.”

Simeon Mawanza added that Zimbabwe has clear obligations under international law and that the country must not fail to fulfil those obligations, particularly in this critical point in their history.

“Any durable solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe must have the respect and protection of human rights at its foundation,” Mawanza said.

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