U.S. wants Human Rights Council to take up Zimbabwe's crackdown on opposition

U.S. Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor said in today’s Human Rights Council’s Interactive Dialog with Louise Arbour (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) that “My government is also concerned by recent events in Zimbabwe, where democratic opponents of the Mugabe regime gathered peacefully for a prayer meeting were brutally attacked by government security forces this past weekend. At least one person was killed, others — including children — were wounded and over 100 were arrested. Among others, Morgan Tsvangirai, a leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, was severely beaten after being detained. We welcome your statement regarding the situation in Zimbabwe. While we welcome today’s release from detention of Mr. Tsvangirai and other detainees, we remain concerned by reports of continued harassment and arrest of demonstrators. We would welcome any information your office can provide on developments in Zimbabwe. The United States Government believes the Council should consider urgent situations such as this.”

In Washington, the Deputy Spokesman of the U.S. State Department, Tom Casey, had this interaction with a journalist in his daily briefing:
QUESTION: Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe said today that the opposition would pay a heavy price for what he called their campaign to oust him from power. And Tsvangirai is, of course, in intensive care with a cracked skull. I just wondered diplomatically what are you doing at the moment to put pressure on the Zimbabwean Government and how are you handling this?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, unfortunately, I think those kinds of
comments are just in keeping with the continued efforts at intimidation and repression of the opposition that have unfortunately characterized President Mugabe’s increasingly autocratic leadership in the country. In terms of actions, certainly as you’ve seen, we’ve spoken out on this issue forcefully including statements by the Secretary which you know. Our Ambassador in Zimbabwe, Chris Dell, has been very active on this issue. He was in the courtroom yesterday when Mr. Tsvangirai and some of the others appeared. He intends to meet with Mr. Tsvangirai as soon as he is physically able to receive visitors. I would also note that the opposition intends to participate in the funeral for the individual who was killed as a result of the police action breaking up this prayer breakfast last weekend. That is scheduled to take place on Saturday and Mr. Tsvangirai said if he’s physically able, he intends to participate in that. And we all on the Government of Zimbabwe to refrain from any actions against that funeral and events surrounding it and to allow that to move forward peacefully and without any further incidents of violence or intimidation. In terms of other actions on our part, we are calling on the Human Rights Council in Geneva to take up this issue. Again, I think you’ve heard us express concerns about the Council and frankly, it hasn’t done a credible job in its past year of work. It’s focused almost exclusively on issues related to Israel and has not turned its attention to other vital issues before it. And frankly with the Council meeting right now in Geneva in session, it would be
hard to understand how they wouldn’t want to turn their attention to a serious case of human rights abuse and violations, as is occurring in Zimbabwe. In addition to that, tomorrow, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Barry Lowenkron will be in Addis Ababa for consultations with the African Union. He intends to focus on this as well as a number of other issues to see what we can do with our African Union partners to push the Zimbabwean Government to allow for peaceful political participation from its citizens and from the opposition. We’re also going to be consulting with a number of other likeminded countries, including some of our European allies who we’ve been working with actively on the ground in Zimbabwe as well to see what other kinds of things we might be able to do working with them. As you know, we do have a number of targeted sanctions in place against some of those who are responsible for depriving the Zimbabwean people of their democratic rights and certainly we’ll look at whether there are any other additional measures that might be necessary as well in response to some of these latest activities…”

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