Ray Matikinye/Loughty Dube
THE United Nations yesterday joined local and international human rights organisations in remarks seen as censuring President Robert Mugabe ov
er his endorsement of the brutal attack on trade unionists by the police.
The UN Country Team (UNCT) in Zimbabwe yesterday expressed “a profound sense of dismay” over “Zimbabwean authorities”’ statements regarding the police, which it said “might be interpreted as condoning the use of force and torture to deal with peaceful demonstrations by its citizens”.
The UNCT reminded government of its obligations to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the ILO Convention on Freedom of Association, which Zimbabwe has ratified.
“The UNCT calls upon the government to respect the universally held principle that the detention of trade unionists for exercising their right to defend their interests constitutes not only a breach of their civil liberties, but more particularly the fundamental rights of trade unions,” the body said in a statement.
Mugabe on Monday defended the police who assaulted ZCTU leaders, saying they deserved what they got. He said police will crush such protests in the future.
The UN statement came as the International Bar Association (IBA) executive director Mark Ellis on Tuesday said Mugabe’s statements added weight to evidence that torture and other serious violations of international law were sanctioned at the highest level in Zimbabwe.
“The torture of the trade union activists is not an isolated incident, but part of a dangerous and illegal system of repression which constitutes crimes against humanity in international law,” Ellis said. “Decisive action is required by both the United Nations and the African Union to end impunity and violence in Zimbabwe,’’ Ellis said.
He said there was urgent need for international and regional action to hold the Zimbabwean government to account.
l Meanwhile, this week Zimbabwe was forced to reply to allegations of human trafficking at the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting while the US indicated it would tighten sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Washington said it would suspend financial support for certain projects in Zimbabwe except pro-democracy and health programmes.
The human trafficking allegations, the first against Zimbabwe, arise from a June 12 report Washington compiled on countries that have done little to stop the practice.
The UN Human Rights Commission meeting in New York also gave Zimbabwe a right of reply to allegations of human rights abuses emanating from the destruction of housing structures in Epworth in Harare last month.
Zimbabwe’s representative, Enos Mafemba, said the evictions being carried out were not arbitrary or illegal as notices had been published to forewarn people about pending demolitions. Zimbabwe had been adopting measures to uphold the rights of its people and to advance development, Mafemba said.
But human rights groups maintained their condemnation of the government’s handling of Operation Murambatsvina saying there
was need to pool resources to help the 700 000 people left homeless by the blitz.
Sebastian Gilloz of Human Rights Watch, in a joint statement with the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions said the UN rapporteur on the right to adequate housing should be invited to Zimbabwe to further study the situation.