Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has accused United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay of bias against Zimbabwe and of being a Western "pawn" for criticizing an ongoing political crackdown in the country.
Chinamasa, in Geneva for a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, launched the attack after Pillay, a former South African judge, said Harare had embarked on a crackdown on civil society activists and members of the political opposition.
Pilllay condemned the arrest of former lawmaker and socialist Munyaradzi Gwisai and 44 others for allegedly plotting an Egyptian-style uprising to oust President Robert Mugabe.
ZANU-PF critics including spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, two MDC members of Parliament, National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku and MDC-99 party leader Job Sikhala have been arrested or summoned by police in recent weeks.
Chinamasa said such matters remain under adjudication pending decisions in the courts. He contended that Pillay had been misinformed by the press.
"We take great exception to the biased, mischievous and partisan stance that the person of the high commissioner has taken over the years with respect to our country,” Chinamasa told the UN Human Rights Council.
He said Zimbabwe was determined “to ensure that the (Pillay) office is immunized from being used as a pawn in the wider political game.”
Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Chinamasa’s attack on Pillay was unfortunate.
The three principals in Zimbabwe's national unity government have summoned ministers with security briefs amid growing pressure on Harare to halt the crackdown.
Co-minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone of the Tsvangirai MDC confirmed that she and her fellow co-Home Affairs minister, Kembo Mohadi, and the ministers of Defense and State Security are to meet with President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara next week.
South African sources said President Jacob Zuma, mediator in Harare for the Southern African Development Community, has also been pressing for an end to the crackdown.
Prime Minister Tsvangirai confronted Mr. Mugabe last week about the arrests.