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Human Rights Watch Deplores Violence in Zimbabwean Constitutional Process

Human Rights Watch said the violence witnessed in connection with the constitutional outreach process shows that the country has not made much progress on respecting human rights

Human Rights Watch urged the government of Zimbabwe on Tuesday to take urgent steps to end abuses during the country's ongoing constitutional revision process, saying violence and intimidation during community meetings on the basic document do not bode well for the eventual constitutional referendum or a future election.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project meanwhile said the human rights environment has deteriorated considerably since the constitutional outreach process started in June. In a report on human rights violations in August it said the most violations were seen in Manicaland province with 199 cases, followed by Mashonaland East province with 182.

Human Rights Watch said the violence witnessed in connection with the constitutional outreach process indicated the country has not made much progress on human rights since a unity government took power in 2009.

The international non-governmental organization urged the repeal of repressive laws such as the Public Order and Security Act or POSA, which curtails the right of Zimbabweans to assemble.

Human Rights Watch blamed supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party for violence against civil society activists and perceived supporters of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher for Africa Tiseke Kasambala told VOA reporter Patience Rusere that her organizations is concerned the situation could deteriorate further with the death last week of an MDC activist who was severely beaten at the venue of a constitutional outreach meeting in Mbare, Harare.

Elsewhere, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Revision agreed that outreach meetings in Harare should resume on Saturday. Select Committee Co-Chairman Douglas Mwonzora says that his panel has made six recommendations for the maintenance of peace in the 42 venues where meetings must be re-convened.

Mwonzora said Patience the paramount concern is that adequate security be provided at meetings.

In Beitbridge, on the border with South Africa, meanwhile, sources told VOA that meetings were abandoned after locals said they could not understand outreach facilitators, insisting on being addressed in the minority Venda language. Outreach team member and parliamentarian Martin Khumalo confirmed to a VOA Studio 7 reporter that locals said they could not understand either English, Shona or Ndebele.

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