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Activists Gloomy On Zimbabwe Human Rights Outlook For 2007

Human rights activists looking back at 2006 say they saw a deterioration throughout the country, leaving them pessimistic on the chances of improvement in 2007.

Rights defenders point to the September beatings of trade union leaders in Harare after a demonstration, allegedly at police hands, as a worrisome sign of an escalating use of violence by security forces responding to anti-government protests.

During the year more than 1,000 activists of the National Constitutional Assembly, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, the Zimbabwe National Students Union and other groups were taken into custody by police and at times allegedly beaten as they demonstrated or attempted to stage protests in Harare and other cities around the country.

Local and international rights organisations including the Human Rights NGO Forum, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called attention to such alleged human rights violations by the government of President Robert Mugabe. Harare for its part has generally rejected such accusations, saying they have been conjured up by groups that are funded by Western powers intent on ousting Mr. Mugabe.

For an examination of the human rights outlook, reporter Carole Gombakomba called on human rights lawyers Joyce Siveregi, a Humphrey fellow at American University in Washington, and Otto Saki, a member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Saki said the Zimbabwean state tightened its grip on rights during 2006.

More reports from VOA'S Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...