Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai wants UN to probe Mugabe's human rights abuses

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HARARE - Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday called on the United Nations (UN) to send a special envoy to investigate human rights abuses by President Robert Mugabe and his government.

Calling Zimbabwe a "criminal state," Tsvangirai said the world body, which in a report last Friday condemned Mugabe's urban clean-up drive as a disastrous venture that violated international law, should follow up by appointing a rapportuer from the UN Human Rights Commission to "undertake a comprehensive investigation" into human rights violations by Harare.

"We believe significant progress can be registered in the search for a lasting solution if, arising from the report, the United Nations sends to Harare a rapporteur from the UN Human Rights Commission to undertake a comprehensive investigation into the (human rights) situation in our country," Tsvangirai told journalists in Harare.

Tsvangirai, whose opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has lost to Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party in three elections that have however been condemned as flawed and undemocratic, said it was Zimbabweans who ultimately would have to pressure Mugabe to change and abandon his controversial policies.

But the opposition leader said Zimbabweans required help from the international community to rein in what he said was a "criminal' government. "Zimbabwe has become a criminal state. Our fear is that Zimbabwe, in its present state, lacks the capacity to rein in the perpetrators, especially when the main culprit is Mugabe," he said.

The MDC leader spoke as some Zimbabwean civic groups also on Tuesday wrote to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan requesting him to ask the Security Council to act on Zimbabwe.

The Association of Concerned Zimbabweans, Association of Zimbabweans Based Abroad and the Alliance for Southern African Progress also called for Zimbabwean officials behind the urban clean-up operation to be brought before the International Criminal Court.

A copy of the groups' letter shown to ZimOnline read in part: "It is not enough to call for a halt to what the Mugabe government has been doing. The international community is urged to put the crisis in Zimbabwe on the (UN) Security Council agenda.

"We urge the International Criminal Court to commence without delay an investigation into the claim that a crime against humanity has been perpetrated and those responsible for perpetrating this egregious act must be brought to justice."

In her hard-hitting report, UN envoy Anna Tibaijuka, said the clean-up drive left up to 700 000 people homeless after their city backyard cottages and shantytown homes were demolished by the police. A further 2.4 million people were also affected by the operation, the report said.

Tibaijuka said the urban renewal campaign had been carried out indiscriminately causing untold suffering to the victims and also violating international law.

Harare, which says the condemned clean-up drive was meant to smash crime and restore the beauty of Zimbabwe's cities, has rejected the report saying it was biased and hostile.

Annan's office has indicated the UN boss may visit Zimbabwe possibly by September after Mugabe challenged him to come and see for himself the situation in the crisis-hit country. - ZimOnline