Rights group raises alarm over Zimbabwe generals

An international human rights group has piled pressure on the government and the international community to censure the country’s security chiefs, who have declared their allegiance to Zanu PF saying they pose a risk on the credibility of elections.

REPORT BY NQOBILE BHEBHE

In a 44-page report titled, The Elephant in the Room: Reforming the Security Sector Ahead of Zimbabwe’s Elections the New York-based, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the service chiefs’ involvement in politics could result in a “refusal to endorse the election outcome, or other consequences”.

“Zimbabwe’s unity government is going to have to rein in the security forces and keep them out of politics if the elections are going to have any meaning,” Tiseke Kasambala, HRW’s advocacy director for Africa said.

“There is an urgent need, ahead of the elections, for Zimbabwe’s security forces to be drastically reformed, to create a political environment conducive for holding non-violent and credible elections.”

The service chiefs drawn from the army, the police and prison services are on record publicly declaring their allegiance to President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.

They have labelled Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai a stooge of the West and a psychiatric patient.

Security agents were implicated in widespread abuses including killings, beatings and torture during the violent and disputed 2008 presidential election runoff.

The HRW report came on the eve of the weekend Sadc extraordinary summit in Mozambique where Zimbabwe is on the agenda.

Zimbabwe is due to hold elections in the coming months.

According to the report: “No members of the security forces are known to have been disciplined or prosecuted for acting in a partisan manner or committing criminal offences against the MDC and its supporters.”

“The role of the security forces is likely to have an effect on the ability of Zimbabweans to freely vote during the elections,” he said.

It recommended government to “promptly investigate and prosecute, in accordance with national law and international standards, members of the security forces against whom there is evidence of criminal responsibility for serious abuses including arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment.”

HRW urged Sadc to press the unity government to urgently take necessary measures to ensure that the security forces act in a politically-neutral manner.

The group said the report was based on surveys conducted in Bulawayo, Harare, the Midlands, Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Central and West provinces from last November to February.

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