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Zimbabwe: Massive Crackdown on Opposition

Press Statement
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 24, 2003

Zimbabwe: Massive Crackdown on Opposition

The United States strongly condemns the unprecedented violence carried out by the Zimbabwe government against domestic opponents. Over the past three days, the Government of Zimbabwe has embarked on a massive retribution campaign against opposition officials, supporters, and other critics of the regime. This wave of violence and intimidation follows last week’s successful and largely peaceful two-day work stoppage organized by the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. Since then, over 400 opposition supporters have been arrested, beaten, and in some cases tortured by individuals in police and military uniform. Over 250 people have required hospitalization and at least one person has died. Women have been sexually assaulted by police or military officers. The upsurge in official violence is directly attributable to President Mugabe’s speech last Friday in which he said he could be a “black Hitler ten fold” in crushing his opponents.

Since the beginning of this year, government officials and supporters have sharply escalated repression of all forms of dissent. This repression has grown increasingly violent. In the run-up to this week’s parliamentary by-elections in two pro-opposition districts, the ruling party has made clear its intent to win at any cost and has used violence and manipulation of food stocks to intimidate voters. Severe violence directed against opposition parties and supporters has become a standard pre-election tactic of the Mugabe government over the past three years.

The United States demands that the Zimbabwe government immediately cease its campaign of violent repression. The Zimbabwe government must also act to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of these serious and widespread human rights abuses.

Released on March 24, 2003

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