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U.S. Sternly Rebukes Zimbabwe's Brutality

U.S. Sternly Rebukes Zimbabwe's Brutality Toward Protesting Citizens

(Dept. of State urges action by international community and African states)

"The Government of Zimbabwe has responded to peaceful attempts at public protest this week with an ongoing wave of intolerance and brutality," Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker said in a statement issued by the State Department June 5.

Detailing a list of actions against the citizenry, including arrests, beatings and denial of access to legal aid and families, Reeker urged "political forces, including the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, to enter into unconditional dialogue on an urgent basis to address the political and economic crisis afflicting the nation."

He called on the international community to continue to press for political reform in Zimbabwe, and asked that African states in particular exert "concerted and sustained action" to "achieve political change and economic recovery in Zimbabwe."

Following is the text of the Reeker statement:

(begin text)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman June 5, 2003

STATEMENT BY PHILIP T. REEKER, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN

Zimbabwe: Crackdown on Opposition

The United States strongly condemns the Zimbabwean government's suppression of its citizens' efforts to protest peacefully their country's economic collapse and human rights abuses. As it did in March, the Government of Zimbabwe has responded to peaceful attempts at public protest this week with an ongoing wave of intolerance and brutality. While the opposition's calls for a work stoppage succeeded in closing most shops and businesses, its efforts to organize peaceful marches were broken up with tear gas and beatings.

Throughout the week, once-apolitical police and army services have arrested hundreds of opposition supporters, often detaining them in squalid conditions without charge. Among those arrested have been several members of parliament and the mayor of Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo. Many of those detained are being denied access to lawyers, families, medical care, and even food. The leader of the opposition was also briefly detained on June 2.

Dozens of Zimbabweans have sought medical treatment for injuries suffered from beatings by security agents, including war veterans and youth brigades integrated into police and army forces. One opposition supporter was seized from a private home along with an elected Harare Councilor, and was beaten to death. Security forces raided a private clinic where 30 to 40 opposition supporters were seeking treatment. Numerous patients were interrogated in the clinic. Two people were abducted from near the clinic, and their condition and whereabouts remain unknown.

The United States calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to allow peaceful protest, cease human rights abuses, reverse its disastrous economic policies, and restore the rule of law.

We strongly urge political forces, including the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, to enter into unconditional dialogue on an urgent basis to address the political and economic crisis afflicting the nation.

The international community must continue to defend human rights and political reform in Zimbabwe. Concerted and sustained action by African states, in particular, is vital to achieving political change and economic recovery in Zimbabwe.


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