In Zimbabwe, Human Rights Watch has warned that a “campaign of violence” has extinguished any hope of free and fair run-off presidential elections.
The New-York-based group says in a new report that it has evidence linking senior officials, loyal to Robert Mugabe (photo), with violent incidents. The report also says that president Mugabe’s governing Zanu-PF party and its allies have been running torture camps.
In the second round of the presidential elections, due to be held on June 27, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will face Mr Mugabe.
Violence against supporters of Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has worsened in the lead up to the run-off, says the Human Rights Watch report.
“Zimbabweans can’t vote freely if they fear their vote may get them killed”, said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Detained by the police
Details of dozens of attacks, including 36 deaths, are given in the report. More than 70 people, described as victims and witnesses, are cited.
The first round of the elections was held in March, and the results, that were much-delayed, showed Morgan Tsvangirai (photo) ahead, but not by enough to win outright.
In the past week the opposition leader has been temporarily detained by the police, along with some of his key allies.
It also tried to ban MDC rallies, a move that was overturned by Zimbabwe’s High Court.
Mr Mugabe is widely accused of economic mismanagement resulting in runaway inflation, soaring unemployment and the decline of Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector.
Zimbabwe’s president blames former colonial power Britain and its Western allies for the crisis.