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HRW Condemns Crackdown on Zimbabwe NGOs

Human Rights Watch has called on the Zimbabwean government to stop the crackdown on civil society groups and urged the Southern African Development Community to press for more democratic reforms ahead of the general elections later this year.

In a statement Tuesday, the international rights watchdog said government should “stop the abuse of power and hold those responsible to account.”

Since December, the group said, police have carried out a number of raids on non-governmental organizations and arrests on activists including Jestina Mukoko of the Zimbabwe Peace Project and lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, among others.

Human Rights Watch Africa advocacy director Tiseke Kasambala described the onslaught on civili society groups as deplorable.

"“Police harassment and arrests of civil society activists has worsened as elections get closer,” Kasambala said. “The government needs to stop this police abuse of power and hold those responsible to account."

“The systematic police campaign appears designed to disrupt civil society operations and stop them from the important work of monitoring the human rights environment ahead of the elections. The government of Zimbabwe should respect and protect space for unfettered civil society operations,” she added.

Kasambala’s sentiments were echoed by Dr. Nkululeko Sibanda, a politics lecturer at the Huddersfield University in Britain.