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Human Rights in Zimbabwe

The recent attack on Trudy Stevenson, a Movement for Democratic Change, or M-D-C, member of parliament, is a reminder of the violence that has stalked Zimbabwean politics in recent years. The U.S. endorses the investigation by the M-D-C of this violent act and calls for an investigation by the government as well.

Standards of political conduct in Zimbabwe have been eroded by years of organized assaults on opposition figures, the independent media, judges, and civil society. The moral rot is deepest in the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF, which has been responsible for the vast majority of the offenses. Few, if any, of the perpetrators of these acts were ever punished.

A recent report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Nongovernmental Forum says that there is widespread evidence of human rights abuses by the government of Zimbabwe, headed by President Robert Mugabe. According to the Forum, since July 2001, more than fifteen thousand cases of organized violence and torture have been reported in Zimbabwe.

Most of the perpetrators, says the report, are the Zimbabwean police. According to the report, "People in detention are generally at a much greater risk of abuse unless there are extremely strong safeguards in place governing the process of detaining people." In its latest human rights report, the U.S. State Department says that in the past year, the government of President Robert Mugabe "maintained a steady assault on human dignity and basic freedoms.” U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Jeffrey Krilla says that Zimbabwe "continues to move in the wrong direction":

"They continue to arrest and detain opposition leaders and their supporters. And then last year they closed down an independent newspaper, showing just how unwilling they are even to accept criticism. So the Zimbabwean government continues to be a real human rights offender on the continent."

President George W. Bush said Zimbabwe "has not been a good case study for democracy." Mr. Bush said the U.S. "is concerned about a leadership that does not adhere to democratic principles, and obviously concerned about a country that was able to, for example, feed herself, now has to import food as an example of the consequences of not adhering to democratic principles."

The U.S. reaffirms its call on the ruling party to negotiate with its domestic political opponents in good faith and to take the reforms needed to bring an end to the crises its misguided policies have wrought on a once prosperous and democratic nation.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.