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Harare Presents Overdue Rights Report To African Union Rights Panel

Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Sunday presented a long awaited human rights report to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights which was meeting in Accra, Ghana. Harare had not presented the report for eight years, though it is supposed to deliver such a report every two years.

Chinamasa reiterated Harare's position that Western countries have wrongly accused Zimbabwe of human rights abuses and imposed "illegal" sanctions in retribution for its decision to embark on a radical program of land redistribution in 2000.

Zimbabwean civil society groups attending the rights summit refused to participate in some schedule sessions, saying Chinimasa had threatened them. He is said to have refused to guarantee the safety of NGOs as AU commissioners had requested.

Chinamasa, who led Harare's delegation, reportedly threatened to use “proportionate force” against non-governmental organizations which Zimbabwe has accused of working with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and with foreign governments to bring about what it terms "regime change."

The United States, the European Union, Australia and other governments say Harare has systematically violated human rights by suppressing dissenting views and cracking down on political opponents. Washington and Brussels have imposed a travel ban and economic sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle.

Legal advisor Wilbert Mandinde of the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that some members of the 10 NGOs present at the summit now fear for their lives.

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