Mugabe complicit in rape orgy

soldiers_zimbabweHARARE A leading anti-AIDS advocacy group said last week that it had incontrovertible evidence that could be used to prosecute President Robert Mugabe and members of his Zanu (PF) party for crimes against humanity following an orgy of systematic rape of opposition supporters during the run-up to disputed 2008 presidential polls.


US-based AIDS-Free World said in a 64-page report published last Thursday

that most of those who unleashed the rape orgy were known because the

Zanu (PF) supporters who carried out the attacks, including members of

the pro-Mugabe youth militia and former soldiers in Zimbabwes war

of liberation known as war veterans, identified themselves to their

victims.

All the women targeted were supporters of Prime Minister Morgan

Tsvangirais MDC-T party, the report said.

“The evidence is incontrovertible: Mugabe believes he can sanction

rape without fear of consequences. Zimbabwe is perhaps the greatest

test for ending impunity, said Stephen Lewis, a co-director of

AIDS-Free World.

Some women were forced to watch the rape of their daughters and murder

of their husbands and other family members before or after they were

raped.

Others were held as sex slaves for several weeks at the numerous

torture camps set up by Zanu (PF) in the run-up and after the disputed

presidential election run-off in June 2008 which was controversially

won by Mugabe.

Top army and police commanders are credited with keeping Mugabe in

power after waging a ruthless campaign of violence last year to force

then opposition leader Tsvangirai to withdraw from a second round

presidential poll that analysts had strongly tipped the former trade

unionist to win.

Tsvangirai had beaten Mugabe in the first round ballot but failed to

achieve outright victory to avoid the second round run-off poll.

The former foes eventually bowed to pressure from southern African

leaders to agree to form a government of national unity that has been

able to halt the economy from sinking deeper into the mire but has

struggled to ensure the rule of law and to uphold human rights.

The AIDS-Free World report, titled Electing to Rape: Sexual Terror in

Mugabes Zimbabwe, said the rapes and other crimes against humanity

committed by Mugabes supporters have received little public

attention, adding that there was need for a concerted regional effort

to bring both high and low level perpetrators to justice.

Lewis said silence and inaction by international community made it

complicity in the crimes committed against innocent civilians by

Mugabes supporters.

He said: “It is terrible to say, but legitimate to say, that makes

individual countries, sub-regions, entire regions and the

international community complicit in what Robert Mugabe is doing.

If President (Jacob) Zuma were to condemn outright the behaviour of

Robert Mugabe and make it clear that South Africa would no longer

tolerate the destabilisation of Southern Africa, then Robert Mugabes

days would be numbered,” Lewis observed.

The 64-page report is based on extensive interviews with 72 survivors

and witnesses of rape and other violations, and documents 380 rapes

committed by 241 perpetrators across Zimbabwes 10 provinces.

The advocacy group criticised the coalition government formed by

Mugabe and Tsvangirai in February of failure to act against

perpetrators of the rights abuses.

The report said the government of Zimbabwe was well aware of the

widespread sexual violence against women during this period, adding

that the Joint Operations Command (JOC) masterminded the campaign of

violence and abuse.

The JOC is the supreme organ of Zimbabwe state security comprising the

heads of the military, police, intelligence services, prisons and the

central bank.

The report goes on to detail Mugabes own complicity in the rapes,

explaining how the ageing dictator not only knew about the campaign,

but also refused to prevent it or punish those responsible.

This combination of knowledge, the refusal to prevent, and the

failure to punish the widespread political rape requires that Robert

Mugabe and members of the JOC should be investigated and prosecuted

for their individual criminal liability for the rapes, the report

reads.

More than 200 people, mostly MDC supporters, died during the violence

campaign carried out by the youth militias and members of Zimbabwes

security forces.

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