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US Report Notes Some Progress on Human Rights in Zimbabwe, Calls for More

A report on human rights in Zimbabwe in 2009 prepared by the U.S. Department of State found some improvement over conditions in the 2008 election year, but said progress on media freedom has lagged under the unity government

The U.S. government has called on Zimbabwe's unity government to promote respect for human rights in the country, identifying media freedoms as one area where there has been less progress over the past 13 months than might have been hoped for, and warning of a rise in trafficking in persons through Zimbabwe.

Presenting a report on human rights in Zimbabwe for 2009 compiled by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Embassy Second Secretary Amanda Porter said Harare needs to do more to ensure respect for human rights - though there has been some progress in this regard.

"I would say that the human rights situation in Zimbabwe is improving over 2008 but there are still areas where Zimbabwe can make improvements. In particular, I would say media freedoms, licensing of new media outlets is an area where we have expected to see improvement in 2009 but didn't necessarily see as much as we would have hoped for."

Porter said the rights report indicated a need for Harare to step up monitoring of trafficking in persons through Zimbabwe as a way station on the way from East Africa to South Africa, though it can be difficult to distinguish such traffic which frequently manifests itself in arrests for illegal border crossing, for example.

Programs Manager Pedzisai Ruhanya of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the unity government should give a high priority to the prosecution of human rights violators or perpetrators of political violence.

Elsewhere, Parliament's Committee on Home Affairs said proposals to amend the much-maligned Public Order and Security Act do not go far enough and leave too much room for police to violate civil rights.

The committee that “the powers currently reposed in the police should be reviewed and generally curtailed.” The panel added that proposals from members of the public should be reflected in the reform legislation.

Mutare Central lawmaker Innocent Gonese, author of the pending legislation, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the committee also wanted police to be obliged to justify their use of force.