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Zimbabwe: Campaign of Terror Dims Election Hopes

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC
June 18, 2008

Hope Fades for Free Elections in Zimbabwe during Government Campaign of Terror

"We are deeply troubled by the current reports of intimidation, harassment and violence. It is vital that the appropriate conditions are created so that the Presidential run-off is conducted in a peaceful, free and fair manner. Only then can the political parties conduct their election campaign in a way that enables the citizens to express freely their political will." --Open letter from more than 40 prominent African leaders

Escalating violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe is seriously jeopardizing any hope of free and fair elections in the upcoming June 27, 2008 presidential run-off. In the aftermath of the March 29 national elections, Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party has unleashed a wave of political violence designed to force opposition party supporters and ordinary citizens into submission and deter them from voting their conscience or even participating in the June contest.

The government recently banned most political rallies. While the courts defeated this ban, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai has been detained five times while campaigning in recent weeks and police have confiscated campaign vehicles.

Soldiers, police, war veterans and youth militia loyal to the ruling party have been deployed throughout Zimbabwe to systematically intimidate voters through killings, beatings, torture, looting of property, burning of homes, arbitrary detentions, and public humiliation.

Family members of MDC leaders including women, children, and the elderly have not been spared. Civil society groups, particularly those involved in election monitoring, the independent media, and humanitarian organizations charged with providing desperately needed food assistance also have been targeted.

Diplomats attempting to document the violence have been detained and harassed.

Political Targeting

* Authorities illegally detained Morgan Tsvangirai on five separate occasions: June 4 and 6, twice on June 12, and again on June 14, preventing him from attending MDC rallies. Police impounded Tsvangirai's two campaign buses, but recently released one.

* MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti was arrested on June 12 and charged with communicating statements prejudicial to the State and treason, which carries the death penalty. Reporters were barred from his June 14 court appearance.

* On June 7, the wife of an MDC district chairman was murdered by a member of the ZANU-PF militia, who cut off her hands and legs and set her body on fire.

* On June 6, the home of an MDC district councilor in a Harare suburb was set on fire by a ZANU-PF mob. The councilor's six-year-old son and pregnant wife were killed in the fire and neighbors were beaten.

* On June 4, a group of gunmen in riot police uniforms broke into an MDC office where six people were hiding. They shot three, poured gasoline over all six, and set them on fire. Two died, two are in the hospital with severe burns, one escaped with burns, and one is missing.

* An MDC provincial treasurer was abducted at gunpoint in broad daylight on May 22 and later murdered. His mutilated body was found May 25.

* At least eight newly elected MDC parliamentarians have been arrested or detained and at least one remains in prison in defiance of a court order to release him.

* The government has banned rallies by the opposition party, although on June 7 the High Court issued a provisional order allowing four MDC rallies in Harare to proceed.

* The government is confiscating the identity cards of some MDC supporters, rendering them unable to vote or collect food aid from the government.

* On April 25, police raided MDC party headquarters and took more than 300 persons into custody, many of whom were being sheltered by the MDC after having their homes burned. The detainees were later released; however, as many as 500 displaced people remain at party headquarters.

Repression of Civil Society and Intimidation of the Media

* On June 14, Mugabe announced that he was prepared to go to war to prevent the opposition from governing.

* Zimbabwean security forces have set up torture camps throughout the country. Human Rights Watch reported that at one of these camps, more than 70 individuals were tortured in one day as part of ZANU-PF's "re-education campaign" led by so-called "war veterans" and youth militia who were seeking to punish MDC supporters. Six died as a result, and about 30 others were hospitalized. Many of the victims required skin grafts and suffered from mutilated genitals.

* Victims have suffered severe beatings, lacerations, fractured and shattered bones, gunshot wounds, and burns. Some victims have had their eyes gouged out and their tongues cut off.

* Police raided the offices of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the independent organization that monitored the March 29 election. ZESN has yet to receive accreditation from the government to monitor the June 27 run-off.
Eight ZESN observers have been beaten and 18 have been forced into hiding.

* Government security forces beat more than 60 members of the civil society organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) for participation in a pro-democracy protest on May 5; 14 WOZA members were arrested, and one remains in jail.

* Police arrested three student leaders after they refused to end demonstrations against the Mugabe regime's political violence. Several students were injured as police broke up the protest.

* At least five Zimbabwean journalists and five members of the foreign media have been arrested or detained in relation to election coverage.

* Three South African journalists were arrested and sentenced to six months in jail for possessing broadcasting equipment without a license, a charge that until now has only resulted in fines.

* Eight senior officials have been fired or suspended at the government-run Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation, reportedly for political reasons.

* Government security forces continue to raid many civil society offices, confiscating computers and files, destroying property, and intimidating staff.

* Worship has become dangerous for many Zimbabweans following a split in the Anglican Church between two bishops, one a loyal ZANU-PF supporter. In April and May police officials stormed Anglican churches, breaking up services and attacking worshipers, mostly women, with batons. Police actions against citizens also include arresting parishioners, interrogating priests and lay leaders, and locking doors of churches to keep worshippers away.

Humanitarian Crisis

* The government suspended all NGO activities on June 5, including emergency food distributions. This put at risk several million people, including orphans, vulnerable people, and those infected with HIV/AIDS. On June 18 the government lifted the ban on organizations involved in food distribution and HIV/AIDS treatment.

* By some estimates, up to 3 million citizens of Zimbabwe have fled their country due to economic pressures or political violence.

* The government appears to be distributing food and other goods in a partisan manner: While police watched, a group of "war vets" hijacked the truck of a USAID partner NGO and stole 20 metric tons of US Government humanitarian food aid destined for hungry school children in Marange District, Manicaland on June 6.

* State agents are harassing and threatening the personal safety of NGO workers around the country, even those complying with the NGO suspension.

Political Violence in Numbers

Attacks: 3,000
Killed: 54
Missing: 200
Displaced: Over 30,000
Victims requiring medical treatment: 3,000

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