International court urged to prosecute Mugabe

bobA leading advocacy group has called for urgent international action to prevent the looming carnage in Zimbabwe, warning that the next presidential election will condemn thousands of people to violence, unless there is immediate action. (Pictured: Robert Mugabe)

The group, AIDS-Free World, has urged the United Nations Security Council to take the lead in confronting Robert Mugabe, warning that the writing is on the wall for more politically motivated violence ahead of possible elections. The group expressed particular concern for the safety of the countrys women, warning they could face a grisly repeat of the politically motivated rape campaign orchestrated by Mugabe during the 2008 elections.

Last year AIDS-Free World released a shock report detailing the horrific rape campaign against Zimbabwes women, as part of ZANU PFs violent strategy to hold on to power. The report, Electing to Rape: Sexual Terror in Mugabes Zimbabwe, documents 380 rapes committed by 241 perpetrators, who all identified themselves to their victims as ZANU PF members. The report also detailed that the figures are just the tip of the iceberg, as many other rape victims are too fearful to come forward. Any kind of justice for the crimes has been nonexistent, and there has been no condemnation or action from either the African Union or the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

AIDS-Free World this week used the report to highlight its concerns at the World Aids Conference, currently underway in Vienna. The group said it is critical for the AIDS movement to act to prevent more violence in Zimbabwe, saying: Protecting those who are exposed to human rights violations that put them at risk of HIV is a crucial part of HIV prevention. They explained that 37% of the women they interviewed for their report have since tested positive for HIV.

The group said the evidence contained in their report is enough to prosecute Mugabe and his henchman in ZANU PF for crimes against humanity, and they are now making good on this threat. A meeting has been scheduled for next month with officials from the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where a dossier on the crimes will be handed over for investigation. AIDS-Free World legal and gender advisor, Shonali Shome told SW Radio Africa this is one strategy to end the impunity and silence that still prevails over the rape campaign.

We are very disappointed at the absolute silence from the (Southern African) region, Shome said. We have also yet to see a strong response from the United Nations and again were very disappointed.

Shome explained that there is a sense of urgency to advocate for international action, saying that all the evidence points towards this kind of violence starting up again. She expressed concern that there are growing reports of violence across Zimbabwe, where the constitutional outreach programme has seen ZANU PF return to its violent ways. Shome said that it is unacceptable for Africa and the international community to stand by passively and watch as Mugabe gears up for another campaign of rape and terror to hold on to power.

The writing is on the wall that this will happen again and it is on us now, Shome said. If the international community does not respond, then we are absolutely complicit in what happens.

The AIDS-Free World report details how the rape campaign unleashed on the countrys female opposition supporters, and often their children, was both widespread and systematic, with recurring patterns. This included the uniform physical and emotional brutality of the rapes, the modes of detention and even location of the rapes, the specific types of beatings, and the consistent refusal by the police to investigate the attacks. 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. Other women were held as sex slaves in ZANU PF camps for weeks at a time.

The report states that the ZANU PF government was well aware of the rape campaign that, along with the election violence, was masterminded by the Joint Operations Command (JOC). The report goes on to detail Mugabes own complicity in the rapes, explaining how he not only knew about the campaign, but also refused to prevent it or punish those responsible.

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