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Zimbabwe must prevent political violence: UN rights chief

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (R) speaks to the press with Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (© 2009 AFP)

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Tuesday said Zimbabwe must take steps to prevent a recurrence of the deadly violence that engulfed the last presidential election four years ago.

She spoke after meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who joined long-ruling President Robert Mugabe in a unity government formed to halt the bloodshed that killed more than 200 of the premier’s supporters.

“I was able to raise many areas of concern from human rights point of view, such as non-recurrence of violence that occured in the last elections and what steps are being taken to protect ordinary people against such violence,” Pillay said.

“The prime minister was very firm, forthright and convinced me of his commitment towards protecting human rights,” she said. “His goal also is to have successful elections here.”

Pillay said Zimbabwe must make sure the Human Rights Commission formed under the power-sharing deal can start its work.

“This commission is very, very important and is needed to play a role during elections,” she said.

Tsvangirai said incidents of violence are still happening in the country and need to be addressed.

“There has been progress since the formation of the government of national unity, the incidents (of violence) are still there and we are addressing them,” he said.

He said he hopes “forthcoming elections will be free and fair and legitimate, away from violence.”

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a top Mugabe ally, on Monday told Pillay that reports of torture and rights abuses were “lies”.

Pillay, who is on a five-day visit to Zimbabwe, is expected to meet Mugabe later in the week.

Mugabe, 88, has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

The unity government is meant to clear the way to new elections, but preparations are lagging years behind and no date has been set.

Signature : HARARE (AFP)

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