Zimbabwe: State-sponsored violence and coercion create fundamentally flawed election

Amnesty International today said that it is deeply disturbed by the continuing campaign of state violence and intimidation as part of a deliberate strategy by the Zimbabwean government to ensure that Robert Mugabe wins today’s presidential election. The decision to hold the vote today comes despite calls by the international community to postpone the election until the security situation in Zimbabwe has improved.

“Today’s election is being held against a backdrop of widespread killings, torture and assault of perceived opposition supporters” said Amnesty International.

“Zimbabwe has been allowed to operate outside the African Union (AU) and UN human rights framework for far too long. It is time for effective African and international solidarity with the victims of human rights violations in Zimbabwe. The people must not be left alone to suffer this ongoing violence.”

Amnesty International urges the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to apply all necessary pressure on President Mugabe and his government to end the violence, and calls for a special session of the AU’s Peace and Security Council to consider the situation in Zimbabwe.

“The silence by the AU Assembly Chairman, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, with regard to the situation in Zimbabwe has been deafening – and is contrary to its own principles of respect for human rights and the rule of law,” said Amnesty International.

“The AU Chairman should, during the upcoming Assembly of the African Union next week, strongly and openly condemn the human rights violations occurring in Zimbabwe. Anything less is an abdication of its responsibilities”.

“The AU should, in collaboration with SADC, immediately put human rights monitors on the ground in Zimbabwe and set up an international commission of inquiry to investigate the ongoing violence so that those responsible can be brought to justice”.  

Amnesty International said that while the election takes place, hundreds of political and human rights activists remain detained in Zimbabwean prisons — arbitrarily denied bail — simply for exercising their political rights, including the right to freedom of association. Amnesty International considers all detainees arrested simply because of their perceived political affiliation or exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly to be Prisoners of Conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. 

“Human rights activists like Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu from WOZA [Women of Zimbabwe Arise] are languishing in prison, solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful protest,” said Amnesty International.

“Meanwhile, murderers, torturers, and other perpetrators of human rights violations are left at large and given free rein to commit further human rights violations with impunity.”

Note to editors: Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu are leaders of the activist organisation Woman of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), who were arrested and detained on 28 May 2008 after participating in a peaceful protest against post election violence. They were arbitrarily denied bail by the High Court and are set to appear in court on 3 July. They are being held at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare. They were arrested for exercising their constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to peaceful protest. Amnesty International considers them to be Prisoners of Conscience.