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Human Rights Groups Urge Southern African Leaders To Press Harare

An international coalition of human rights groups has appealed to the Southern African Development Community to increase pressure on the Zimbabwean government to halt what are alleged to be violations of human rights and to respect the rule of law.

Brussels-based Amnesty International, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights issued a joint statement Friday demanding that all parties to ongoing mediated talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and the opposition "aim to find long-term solutions to the human rights crisis" there.

SADC leaders meeting in summit in late March named South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate crisis talks between President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African Nation Union-Patriotic Front and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The statement from the rights groups argued that violence against opposition activists has significantly increased since that summit, called amidst international outrage at the severe beating administered to MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai following his arrest at an abortive Harare prayer meeting March 11 at which an activist was shot dead.

Executive Director Eileen Sawyer of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the statement aimed to keep the issue of human rights in Zimbabwe high on SADC’s agenda.

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