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Zimbabwean Government Admits "Challenges" On Human Rights

Zimbabwean civic groups have taken issue with a government statement to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to the effect that it has responded to complaints of human rights violations by setting up a commission on human rights.

Civil society activists said human rights abuses by the government continue, including in particular the violent repression of protest. The government has for the first time in eight years submitted a report on human rights. The document, covering 1998-2006, should have been filed every two years during that entire period, but was not.

Sources at the African Union agency said the report was filed only after pressure from commisson members and civic groups.

In another move which observers called a surprise, the government tacitly conceded it had violated human rights, describing such transgressions as “challenges.” Harare previously accused human rights groups and Western governments of exaggerating human rights abuses in the country in order to tarnish the government’s image.

Representing Zimbabwe were Margaret Chiduku and Lawrence Muratsi, directors in the Ministry of Justice. The civic groups present in Bangui, the Gambia, home of the commission, include the Media Institute of Southern Africa, the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.

Legal advisor Wilbert Mandinde of the Media Institute of Southern Africa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the government's admission that human rights violations had taken place was an unexpected turn of events.

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