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U.N. Rights Chief Begins Zimbabwe Mission As Gov't Dismisses Alleged Abuses

  • Thomas Chiripasi
  • Ntungamili Nkomo

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay started a week-long mission in Zimbabwe Monday, meeting with government officials, including Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa who dismissed allegations of state-sponsored rights abuses.

Chinamasa also denied the existence of "torture chambers" in some parts of the country as reported by civil society organizations, telling journalists after the meeting that Harare respected and upheld all human rights.

The justice minister - a Zanu PF official - however, said the government would never recognize or respect gay rights, vowing same-sex partners found committing homosexual acts will be jailed.

“The meeting went very well; it was mutually beneficial. I told her of the true situation in the country and the effects of the sanctions which are crippling us from achieving our desired goals," Chinamasa told the state broadcaster.

"On her part she expressed her views in a frank manner on areas she finds us lacking. She will brief you on Friday... On homosexuality, I was clear that our constitution does not permit such practices. It is against our moral fiber and we condemn it.”

Pillay arrived in Harare Sunday at the invitation of the unity government to assess the human rights situation. She said she would not be briefing the press during the course of her 5-day tour.

The U.N. rights chief is expected to meet with civil society organizations Tuesday.

But leading rights defenders, including the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the National Constitutional Assembly said they will stay away, protesting the invitation of Zanu PF-leaning NGOs such as the Affirmative Action Group.

Director Abel Chikomo of the NGO Forum said their boycott was partly inspired by fear of going to parliament where journalists and lawmakers were attacked last year by Zanu PF activists during public hearings on the Human Rights bill.

But political analyst Nkululeko Sibanda told VOA the human rights groups boycotting Pillay were making a mistake.

The U.N. rights chief will hold meetings with President Robert Mugabe, accused of gross human rights violations and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai before wrapping up her tour on Friday.

“The meeting went very well it was mutually beneficial and I told her of the true situation in the country and the effects of the sanctions which are crippling us from achieving our desired goals, on her part she also expressed her views in a frank manner on areas she finds us lacking she will debrief you on Friday.”“The meeting went very well it was mutually beneficial and I told her of the true situation in the country and the effects of the sanctions which are crippling us from achieving our desired goals, on her part she also expressed her views in a frank manner on areas she finds us lacking she will debrief you on Friday.”
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