The Zimbabwean government's poor record on human rights deteriorated even more last year, amid the turmoil surrounding the national elections and the Mugabe regime's campaign to maintain its grip on the troubled nation.
The ZANU-PF party's control and manipulation of the political process through violence, intimidation and corruption denied the people of Zimbabwe's right for democratic rule. Unlawful killings and politically motivated abductions increased. State-sponsored violence against activists and opponents at times seemed to rage unchecked. Harassment of humanitarian aid workers interfered with the delivery of desperately needed assistance as hunger and disease spread through the country.
Every year, the United States Department of State assesses the human rights conditions in hundreds of countries, in an effort to inform U.S. policymaking and promote the values of personal and political freedom. In focusing on human rights abuses, the study also strives to spark action to end them.
In January, President Robert Mugabe ceded some power by accepting Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, the MDC, as Zimbabwe's prime minister in an inclusive government. While the flagrant killings and beatings by security forces and regime loyalists have by and large stopped, many MDC supporters and human rights activists remain in jail. The February 13 arrest of Roy Bennett, a senior MDC official named to serve as deputy agriculture minister also raises doubts about Mugabe's intentions and interest in true reform.
All nations have international obligations to respect the universal human rights and freedoms of their citizens and it is the responsibility of others to speak out when they believe those obligations are not being fulfilled.