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Harare Under Fire At African Human Rights Commission Session

Non-governmental organizations from African countries resolved to place Zimbabwe’s alleged human rights violations high on the agenda of an African Commission on Human and People’s Rights session that opened Wednesday in Accra, Ghana.

Their resolution called on Harare to stop “harassing, intimidating, assaulting, arresting and detaining human rights defenders, including members of the legal profession.”

The NGOs urged Harare to repeal repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, also known as AIPPA, the Public Order and Security Act, or POSA,, and the Broadcasting Services Act, among others.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, representing Zimbabwe, was expected to present shortly a report defending the government. Sources said the report denies allegations of human rights abuses, and blames the country's economic crisis on Western sanctions.

"The undeclared and declared sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, investor flight, shortage of basic commodities, a range of externally generated inflationary pressures and sustained diplomatic isolation orchestrated by Britain and its allies against Zimbabwe are negatively impacting on Zimbabwe’s security, political and economic well being, hence the quality of life and the fundamental rights of its people,” the Zimbabwe government report said.

Harare also accuses Britain of funding the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in hopes it will reverse the land reform program if it gains power.

Britain has refuted this charge, as well as Harare's contention that sanctions are the cause of Zimbabwe's economic woes. Western sanctions against targeted specific government and party officials, including President Robert Mugabe.

The legal advisor for the Zimbabwe Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Wilbert Mandinde, representing NGO’s at the summit told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that human rights abuses in Harare are escalating and the Commission must intervene.

But Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the United Nations Boniface Chidyausiku, told reporter Zulu that NGO’s are misrepresenting facts on the situation in Harare.

Secretary General Tendai Biti of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by founding President Morgan Tsvangirai, refutes Harare’s claims that it is a creation of the West.

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