Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that the lack of accountability for politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe and the Harare unity government's failure to prosecute offenders in connection with previous incidents will ensure more violence in the next elections.
Elections have not been scheduled but President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party have urged they be held this year though the Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says elections cannot be held without further reforms.
The country's last elections were marred by widespread violence, particularly during the June 2008 presidential run-off in which Mr. Mugabe claimed a victory that was widely denounced as illegitimate, leading to negotiations for a power-sharing arrangement.
Human Rights Watch urged the unity government to launch investigations and prosecute those responsible for past human rights violations, adding that it is unfortunate that such abuses continue two years after the formation of the power-sharing government.
Researcher Tiseke Kasambala said there can be no healing without justice. "We are pushing for the power-sharing government to immediately start investigations into the human rights violations as a sign that it is actually committed to ensuring justice for human rights abuses in the country," Kasambala said.
We believe this needs to be done before they can take any steps toward elections."
She said the Southern African Development Community should be more forceful in pressing for justice and trying to prevent further violence in Zimbabwe.
Johannesburg correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported that the Human Rights Watch report entitled “Perpetual Fear: Impunity and Cycles of Violence in Zimbabwe,” covered the history of political violence from independence in 1980 to the present day.
Kasambala said that failing to carry out transitional justice for killings and torture has only fostered impunity that will drive new abuses in the coming elections.
The report accuses Zimbabwe's security forces and others aligned with Mr. Mugabe of arbitrary arrests, abductions, beatings, torture and killings of members and supporters of the former opposition MDC, now in government, and other Mugabe opponents.
Reacting to the Human Rights Watch report, ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo accused the group of being manipulated by the West.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Programs Manager Pedzisai Ruhanya told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that the rights watchdog is right on target.