Zimbabwe: UN rights chief urges justice for victims of electoral violence

Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

26 June 2008 – The United Nations human rights chief today called for justice and accountability in response to the campaign of political violence that has marred Zimbabwe’s electoral process.

The Southern African nation has been beset by deadly unrest since the first round of the presidential election on 29 March. The violence and intimidation led to the withdrawal of Morgan Tsvangirai, of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), from the 27 June run-off in which he was set to face President Robert Mugabe.

Many MDC activists have reportedly been killed or injured in recent weeks and human rights defenders and staff with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) harassed.

“Serious violations of human rights and the associated impunity attributed mainly to groups linked to the ruling ZANU PF and, in some cases, to the MDC party, are unacceptable and need to stop immediately,” stated UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour.

“Victims and their relatives deserve justice. Those who perpetrate crimes must be held to account,” she stressed.

Describing the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe as a “perversion of democracy,” she emphasized that respect of fundamental human rights and the rule of law are at the heart of any meaningful political and democratic process.

The High Commissioner welcomed the continuing efforts to resolve the crisis, adding that they should be guided by the need for justice and accountability, the essential first steps towards reconciliation.

Echoing Ms. Arbour’s comments, a group of independent UN human rights experts today expressed their “grave concern about widespread reports of recurring politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe and other obstacles to citizens’ free and equal participation in the country’s presidential run-off election.”

In a statement issued today in Geneva, the UN Special Procedures mandate holders – who examine issues globally, or focus on specific places, or on particular groups – urged the Zimbabwean Government to ensure respect for human rights and to abide by democratic principles and practices.

“We also urge the Government and the opposition to renew their dialogue with a view to finding a sustainable solution to the country’s problems, including the current political crisis, for the common good of the people of Zimbabwe,” they added.

The run-off is still scheduled to proceed on Friday, despite calls from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and numerous world leaders to postpone the polls, given that they cannot be held in a free and fair manner.


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