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Zimbabwe Crackdown On Dissent

The government of President Robert Mugabe continues its repression of dissidents in Zimbabwe. According to a report by the independent monitoring group, Human Rights Watch, "Over the past year the government has reacted to a spate of nationwide protests against its policies on social, economic, and human rights conditions in the country by intensifying its efforts to intimidate, silence, and punish those who expose abuses and exercise their basic rights."

The Mugabe government, says the report, "has taken no clear action to halt the rising incidence of torture and ill-treatment of activists while in the custody of police or the intelligence services."

Georgette Gagnon, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch, says, "When Zimbabweans engage in peaceful protest, the government responds with brutal repression." She says, "The authorities use torture, arbitrary arrest and detention to deter activists from engaging in their right to freely assemble and express their views."

One student activist taken into custody told Human Rights Watch, "During interrogation, they beat me with baton sticks, clenched fists and kept kicking me." The student said, "Each night they would come and they would strip me naked and then handcuff me with my hands between my legs so that I would not be able to move while they beat me."

The Human Rights Watch report documents the September 13th assault on fifteen trade unionists at the Matapi police station in Harare. They were taken into custody and beaten after participating in a peaceful demonstration protesting the deteriorating economy.

In its latest human rights report, the U.S. State Department cites President Mugabe's "steady assault on human dignity and basic freedoms." U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Jeffrey Krill, says, "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 says the U.S. "is concerned about a leadership that does not adhere to democratic principles."

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