The United Nations human rights chief, alarmed at reports of continuing post-election hostilities in Zimbabwe, has called on the country’s political leaders to restrain their supporters and renounce the use of threats, intimidation and violence against opponents.
The humanitarian and political situation has worsened in Zimbabwe following the 29 March presidential election, in which the incumbent Robert Mugabe was challenged by Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The results of that poll have still not been announced.
“I am particularly concerned about reports of threats, intimidation, abuse and violence directed against NGOs [non-governmental organizations], election monitors, human rights defenders and other representatives of civil society,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“The information I have received suggests an emerging pattern of political violence inflicted mainly, but not exclusively, on rural supporters of the opposition MDC party,” stated Ms. Arbour. “However, there are also some reports of MDC supporters resorting to violence and intimidation.”
The High Commissioner warned that if serious and systematic human rights violations persist, they will threaten efforts to resolve the current political crisis.
“If tolerance and respect for human rights continue their steep decline, the consequences will be grave for all Zimbabweans, and lead to further problems for neighbouring States,” she said.
Mr. Tsvangirai has appealed to the UN and the African Union to intervene in the situation in Zimbabwe. Meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week in Accra, during the UN chief’s official visit to Ghana, Mr. Tsvangirai lamented the lack of progress with the Southern African Development Community, which held a summit on the crisis earlier this month.