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UN rights chief to asses Zimbabwe human rights situation

UN rights chief to asses Zimbabwe human rights situation

Sapa-AP | 21 May, 2012 07:27

Officials said Pillay’s weeklong trip is at the invitation of the three-year 
coalition government formed in 2009 after disputed, violent elections 
plagued by rights abuses blamed mainly on militants of President Robert 
Mugabe’s party and loyalist police and troops.

“I am here to assess the human rights situation,” Pillay told reporters at 
the Harare airport late Sunday.

She will meet with Mugabe, political leaders and rights groups, said 
Mugabe’s justice minister Patrick Chinamasa.

In 2009, chief UN torture investigator Manfred Nowak was barred entry at the 
Harare airport after claims he was not officially cleared for the visit.

In 2005, another special envoy of the UN secretary-general angered Mugabe by 
criticising a slum clearance program that left 700 000 people homeless in 
urban strongholds of the former opposition led by Morgan Tsvangirai, now the 
prime minister in the power-sharing coalition.

Chinamasa, quoted in the state Sunday Mail newspaper controlled by Mugabe 
loyalists, said Pillay was first invited to Zimbabwe last year but couldn’t 
make that trip.

“We showed our commitment by extending another invitation in February and we 
are happy she has accepted,” he said.

He said he was not concerned by submissions Pillay is expected to receive 
from rights activists and non-governmental organizations.

“We are happy we will be able to host her because we have nothing to hide in 
terms of human rights issues. We are not worried about what our detractors 
will say,” he said.

Pillay is scheduled to hold talks with Mugabe, Tsvangirai, defense and 
service chiefs, judges, lawmakers and leaders of rights groups. She will 
hear reports of alleged human rights abuses at diamond fields in eastern 
Zimbabwe where the military has been accused of shootings and torture of 
villagers driven from mining areas.

In a decade of political and economic turmoil, Mugabe’s party has been 
accused of trampling on human and democratic rights, vote rigging and 
targeting opponents and independent journalists in assaults and 

Independent rights groups say at least 200 people, mostly opposition 
supporters, died in violence surrounding the last national polls in 2008 
that Tsvangirai’s party said it won. Tsvangirai boycotted a presidential 
run-off vote against Mugabe, citing spiraling violence against tens of 
thousands of voters.

Pillay, who served as a judge in South Africa, has been at the forefront of 
the documentation of reported killings in Syria during uprisings against the 
government. She was also a former judge at the International Criminal Court 
and head of the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Pillay ends her Zimbabwe visit on Friday.


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