UN wants special units to probe poll violence

HARARE Zimbabwe and other countries affected by recurrent election violence should set up special police and prosecution taskforces to deal with poll-related murders, a senior UN official said last week.

UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston said countries with a track record of election violence should draw up plans for dealing with future violence, including creating non-partisan taskforces to probe murders and other poll-related crimes.

He said impunity for election-related violence was widespread in countries like Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe and called on the governments to institute independent investigations and prosecutions to reduce future violence.

In countries with recurring election violence, the government should consider setting up special police and prosecutor taskforces to focus specifically on election-related murders and other crimes, Alston said in a report to the UN Human Right Council.

Zimbabwes elections have been controversial since 2000, largely marked by violence which the MDC-T of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai

and Western governments have repeatedly blamed on Zanu (PF)-aligned war veterans and youth militia.

In 2008, the MDC-T said more than 200 of its members were murdered by President Robert Mugabes loyalists, including those in the military,

in a spree that shocked even regional neighbours who had long openly sided with the veteran leader.

Zimbabwes security forces have for long been accused of supporting Mugabes Zanu (PF) during elections and have been involved in intimidation, abductions and torture of opposition supporters, giving the veteran leader an unfair advantage over his adversaries.

Various civic groups have recommended that an independent impartial body be appointed to ensure, among other things, the professionalisation of Zimbabwes security forces so that they are restrained from taking a partial role in the countrys elections and confine themselves to monitoring peace and security during the election period.

They have also called for the formation of an independent, non-partisan, transparent, accountable, credible and efficient election management body appointed in an open and inclusive process.

The disbanded Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which ran the countrys elections until this year, was accused of bias, manipulation of electoral processes such as voter registration, custody and maintenance of the voters roll.

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