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Thursday, June 13, 2013

48 days to Zimbabwe elections - act now to ensure vote is free from violence and fear

Amnesty International UK Home
Amnesty International UK
Last time Zimbabwe held elections, so many people were beaten the hospitals ran out of crutches
Zimbabwean police assault members of the National Constitutional Assembly who were demonstrating for a new Constitution in Harare, Wednesday, July, 25, 2007.
During the violence, some 200 people were killed and 10,000 injured. Our researcher told me about an 84 year old woman who had her arm and leg broken for not attending a rally organised by President Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party. Activists who tried to expose such abuses were abducted and tortured.
Today President Mugabe announced thatZimbabwe will go to the polls again on 31 July, giving us less than 7 weeks to ensure the horrendous human rights abuses we saw back in 2008 – the beatings, the torture, the fear - don’t happen again. It's vital that we act now.
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Dear Danny,
It isn’t just violence on the streets we fear a repeat of. Away from the eyes of the world, activists face brutality and intimidation for carrying out their work to defend human rights, work which is more crucial than ever at election time.
In December 2008, Jestina Mukoko of human rights monitoring organisation, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) was abducted by armed men thought to be state security agents. She was tortured and held in secret for three weeks before being dumped at a police station. The ZPP had dared to criticise the violence and human rights abuses committed during the 2008 elections.
We have seen the warning signs: radios confiscated, activists’ offices raided, a prominent human rights lawyer arbitrarily arrested. Jestina Mukoko herself has already faced harassment at the hands of the authorities.
She was at home one evening in early March when an alert went out on state television saying she was ‘on the run’ from the police. Since she wasn’t on the run, she went to her local police station - and was arrested. While Jestina was being questioned, it was announced that those under police investigation were no longer allowed to monitor elections. We fear this is merely a sign of things to come. 
The power to prevent activists like Jestina Mukoko and others like that 84-year-old woman our researcher met from suffering a similar fate this time round, lies with Zimbabwe’s neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
In 2008, it was SADC’s intervention that stemmed the bloodshed. This time, we want them to use their influence to prevent the violence from happening in the first place, and send in human rights monitors so that human rights defenders and activists can carry out their work without fear.
No-one should be beaten into silence – whether for expressing their political opinions or exposing human rights abuses. But with less than 48 days before the polls open, SADC must step in now to ensure Zimbabwe’s elections are free from violence and fear.
Thank you,
Tom Davies
Tom Davies
Zimbabwe Campaigner
Human Rights Defenders Programme
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