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UN Official Cautions Zimbabwe Government On Use Of Lethal Force

A United Nations human rights expert has urged the Zimbabwean government not to use lethal force against unarmed demonstrators as occurred in Harare in March.

Phillip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, issued a statement noting that international law construes “widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population” as crimes against humanity.

Opposition activist Gift Tandare died after being shot by police on March 11 during a confrontation in Harare's Highfield section after police halted a prayer meeting.

More shootings were reported in subsequent days that activists attributed to police or other security forces. Doctors at Harare hospital meanwhile reported the deaths of eight to 10 people over that period from apparent injuries by blunt instruments.

Alston said military and police officers may use lethal force only when doing so is strictly necessary for self-defense or to save another's life, adding that governments that order their forces to shoot are violating international human rights law.

Human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba, executive director of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum in South Africa, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Alston’s concerns should be taken seriously as an increasing number of Zimbabweans are being physically assaulted by security forces.

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