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Human Rights Still Suffer In Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean opposition activists in the United States chose the South African embassy in Washington as the target of their latest protest demanding reforms in their home country.

Freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association and movement have been restricted.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sent Congress the department’s assessment of human rights around the world during 2011. The reports, required by law, evaluate the human rights performance of the governments of every country and a number of territories, and lawmakers and officials in the executive branch use the reports to shape our nation’s foreign policies.

Two thousand eleven saw some positive trends, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, held successful, transparent elections for a Constituent Assembly, which in turn elected a former political prisoner as the country’s interim president. In Burma, the government took important steps toward political reform and released hundreds of political prisoners. And in Colombia, the government worked to improve justice in human rights cases.

But problems persist in many countries, and there are a number of disturbing trends overall. Flawed elections, restrictions on the freedom of expression, assembly or association, media censorship or intimidation and attempts to control the activities of civil society and non-governmental groups indicate eroding respect for human rights in some countries.

Continued abuse of basic human rights in Zimbabwe is a concern to the United States and the entire world community. United Nations Human Rights chief Ms. Navi Pillay said the extreme polarization in Zimbabwean politics is “a major impediment on a number of fronts, including the advancement of human rights.” It is critical that all political parties and leaders join together in upholding and enforcing the protection of human rights.

The 2011 U.S. Human Rights Report states that over the previous year human rights abuses in Zimbabwe continued to be led by ZANU-PF supporters and the security sector. These power centers targeted members of other political parties, journalists and civil society activists for harassment, arrest and physical abuse, sometimes leading to death. Despite calls by President Mugabe and other leaders for an end to political violence, security forces have operated with impunity. Freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association and movement have been restricted, and groups of thugs operating under the ZANU-PF banner have invaded private farms and demolished homes and informal marketplaces.

For the sake of the nation, it is critical that all political actors and the security sector follow the president’s directive, immediately halt their involvement in human rights violations and hold other perpetrators accountable. It is equally important that President Mugabe insist that the government enforces his directive.

The United States is committed to advancing universal rights, building partnerships that will move Zimbabwe forward and helping every man, woman and child live up to their potential. We are also committed to working with the United Nations, NGOs and neighboring countries to help build a stable, peaceful Zimbabwe where human rights are respected and protected.