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» 11.02.2010 - Education still under attack - Unesco

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Africa | Zimbabwe
Politics | Human rights | Society

AI blames prolonged Zim crisis on AU

afrol News, 14 January - Amnesty International has said the sluggish action by the African Union against president Robert Mugabe's regime has prolonged the country's human rights crisis.

The organisation's Deputy Programme Director for Africa, Veronique Aubert, also harshly criticised arbitrary arrests of human rights and political activists, a strategy she said was used by the government to silence its critics.

Ms Aubert issued strong statement while a well renowned human rights activist Jestina Mukoko took a stand in Harare court today. Ms Mukoko was abducted by the alleged state security agents from her home at around 5.00 am on 3 December 2008. Her whereabouts were unknown until 23 December, when it surfaced that she was in police custody.

"The African Union needs to make a strong statement that this is unacceptable to African leadership," Ms Aubert said.

Amnesty International has also called on the Zimbabwean authorities to release prisoners, Ms Mukoko, Broderick Takawira and Pascal Gonzo, also urging the government to initiate a prompt, independent and effective investigation into their arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention. The three members of the Zimbabwe Peace Project have spent more than a month in custody since their alleged abduction in early December.

"We are concerned about the role being played by various authorities, including the office of the Attorney General, to protect the alleged abductors from being identified and held accountable for the abduction and reported torture of the detainees," said Ms Aubert.

She said that the silence of African leaders and their failure to condemn the government's blatant disregard for human rights has significantly contributed to prolonging the Zimbabwean human rights crisis.

Amnesty International has further called for fair trial of detained Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists, who according to local reports their lawyers were denied access to them.

"African leaders have squandered numerous opportunities to end the persecution of government critics in Zimbabwe," said Ms Aubert, calling on the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to publicly denounce the persecution of government critics by Zimbabwe's state security agents at the AU summit, scheduled to take place later this month in Addis Ababa.

The organisation also called on the AU to deploy human rights monitors in Zimbabwe to investigate all allegations of human rights abuse.

At least 27 people are believed to be in custody following a wave of abductions that started at the end of October 2008. Most of the detainees have been denied access to their lawyers, family and medical treatment for prolonged periods.

Zimbabwean authorities have also repeatedly failed to comply with court orders to release the detainees and initially had denied having taken the detainees.

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