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Zimbabwe Rights Groups Concerned about Abuses Ahead of the Elections

Zimbabwean human rights groups say that while documented cases of abuses have declined since July, the situation in the country is nevertheless worrisome given that politically related violence and other abuses tend to rise in electoral periods.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said some 547 people were the victims of human rights violations in August compared with 1,219 reported cases in July.

The report said the country’s political environment is “largely defined by…torture, intimidation and politically motivated violence” against rights defenders.

The report highlighted other violations including abduction or kidnapping, assaults, restriction of freedom of expression or movement, political discrimination, victimization, unlawful arrests and detention.

The Forum said that in August, about 30 members of the Zimbabwe National Army circulated in the Harare high-density suburb of Dzivarasekwa beating up women and children who were selling various wares. In an unrelated incident on August 8, more than 70 uniformed soldiers "ran amok in Esigodini in Matebeleland South, where they assaulted villagers (and) looted the village headman's shop" in what was seen as retaliation for a scuffle involving army officers and local villagers.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project, a member group of the Human Rights Forum, issued its own rights report for August, listing cases of murder, assault and political intolerance. The Peace Project report said the state price-cutting blitz since July has been marked by corruption, looting and harassment by soldiers and police officers.

The Peace Project said agricultural “inputs and food continue to be distributed along partisan lines” excluding those known to oppose the ruling ZANU-PF party.

The report also alleged that officials from the Office of the Registrar General carrying out a mobile voter registration exercise that ended in mid-August seemed to be under the control of politicians"as they failed to professionally manage the process."

Zimbabwe Peace Project National Director Jestina Mukoko reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the rights abuse trend suggests trouble ahead as the country prepares for national elections in March 2008.

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