Rights body urges Zimbabwe to pursue abuse charges

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A human rights group called yesterday for Zimbabwe to pursue all cases of rights abuses, which critics say continue despite a power-sharing deal between President Robert Mugabe and rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
In a statement welcoming a court decision barring the state from prosecuting a leading rights campaigner who says she was tortured to confess to terrorism charges, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it was important for the government to restore the rule of law to win international confidence.
The government has yet to respond to the court ruling.
The group’s executive director Irene Petras told reporters that in a normal democracy, Zimbabwe Attorney-General Johannes Tomana would have resigned over Jestina Mukoko’s case.
“The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights believes law officers should be disciplined, and any similar cases should immediately be reviewed and charges withdrawn,” Petras said.
“Immediate and concerted action should also be taken to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the violations,” she said, adding that this was important for restoring public confidence in Zimbabwe’s justice system.
“This has implications on the regional confidence in the democratisation of our country,” she said.
In custody
Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this week the government could not prosecute Mukoko, head of a local human rights group, as her abduction and torture in custody infringed her rights.
Mukoko’s lawyer Harrison Nkomo said she was suing the state for over $500,000 in damages, but refused to go into details.
Analysts say the Supreme Court ruling on the Mukoko case has opened the way for other rights and opposition activists to have similar charges dropped. That could help ease tension within the unity government formed by Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai in February to try to end a decade long crisis.
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is feuding with Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) over the pace of reforms and the appointment of some top state officials, including Tomana’s continued stay as the attorney-general.
Tomana and his office have not commented on the Mukoko case.