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Sadc Must Act on Rights Crimes — IBA

THE International Bar Association (IBA) has accused the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) of blocking outside initiatives to hold President Robert Mugabe’s government accountable for human rights abuses under international law.

IBA, the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies, this week implored Sadc leaders to act to ensure that detained opposition parties and civic society activists in Zimbabwe were released.

“Sadc has an obligation to act on the crimes of Robert Mugabe’s government,” said IBA executive director Mark Ellis in a statement. “To date Sadc has blocked outside initiatives to hold Mugabe’s regime accountable for its abuses and has been silent while international law is violated with impunity.”

At least 40 people, including a two-year old boy and human rights group leader, Jestina Mukoko, were in detention in Zimbabwe in what the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said was a fresh campaign of persecution by Mugabe’s regime.

The detainees, many of whom are members of the MDC, were abducted in November and December from various locations and held incommunicado for weeks.

“The IBA deplores the inaction of Sadc leaders on the unlawful actions of the Zimbabwean government,” IBA’s Human Rights Institute co-chair Justice Goldstone said in the same statement. “Regional leaders cannot stand by while these unlawful detentions continue in Zimbabwe and still ask the rest of the international community to wait on them to solve the crisis. A key term of the power-sharing deal was that rights violations would stop.”

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and the leader of the smaller formation of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara, signed a unity government deal last September aimed at ending the country’s decade-long political crisis.

However, the pact is on the verge of collapse with Mugabe and Tsvangirai haggling over ministerial portfolio allocations, appointment of governors and senior government officials, and the constitutive nature of the National Security Council to be chaired by the 84-year-old leader.

“The Mugabe regime is clearly failing to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens of Zimbabwe. This places a responsibility on other governments, and especially those of Sadc, to intervene,” Goldstone said.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of State for National Security Didymus Mutasa — who is responsible for intelligence operations — admitted in the High Court a fortnight ago that state security agents seized and detained a wide array of activists on his orders.

While nine of the activists were now known to be in police custody and have appeared in court, many were still missing and unaccounted for. A doctor who examined some of the detainees testified in court that they have been tortured and needed medical treatment.

A High Court judge ruled that their detention was unlawful and ordered that they be taken to a hospital for medical treatment, but government lawyers are challenging his ruling and police have refused to obey the court order. — Staff Writer.

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