U.N. must act on Zimbabwe: expelled rights expert

Thu Oct 29, 2009 10:31am EDT

By Phakamisa Ndzamela and MacDonald Dzirutwe

JOHANNESBURG/HARARE (Reuters) – United Nations torture expert Manfred Nowak called on Thursday for action against Zimbabwe after his expulsion, and said the move underscored disarray in the unity government.

Zimbabwean officials denied him entry and forced him to board a South Africa-bound plane on Thursday after he was detained by security officials on arrival overnight.

He said he had been invited to Zimbabwe by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, whose power-sharing deal with President Robert Mugabe has been fraught with difficulties that have delayed efforts to rebuild the shattered economy.

“I think it sheds light on the present power structure of the unity government if the prime minister invites me for a personal meeting and his office is not in a position to clear my entrance to the country,” said Nowak.

“That is a very alarming signal about the power structure of the present government.”

Nowak said he would recommend that the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) take action against Zimbabwe, once one of Africa’s most promising countries. But the UNHRC’s special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, said immediate moves were unlikely.

Nowak said he was told by Tsvangirai’s office that the expulsion was ordered by Mugabe but he could not verify this. He said only Mugabe’s ZANU-PF was to blame.

“There are strong indications that this was just not done by the minister of foreign affairs without at least the knowledge of President Mugabe.”

Options open to the UNHCR included the adoption of a resolution condemning Zimbabwe and requesting an investigation, or the council could set up an independent investigation team to look into human rights in the country, he said.

Nowak’s invitation marked the first time Zimbabwe had offered to open up to an expert working for the UNHRC. A visit could have helped the country improve what critics say is an image tainted by human rights abuses.

The urgency of objective fact-finding by an independent U.N. expert was highlighted by allegations of the arrest, intimidation and harassment of MDC supporters and of human rights defenders in the past few days, the U.N. said.

IMF CALLS FOR CONSENSUS

Zimbabwe has suffered a decade of economic meltdown, worsened by the withdrawal of crucial Western funding over policy differences with the previous government of Mugabe.

The power-sharing government needs billions of dollars from Western donors to repair its economy. But they have made it clear that cash will only flow once a democracy is created.

“I think that it is the end of the mission. I think I have not been treated by any government in such a rude manner than by the government of Zimbabwe. I will not (go) back,” Nowak said.

In one measure of confidence in Zimbabwe, The International Monetary Fund said Zimbabwe needed to build political consensus to continue with its cash budgeting and to restrain wage demands.

That looks increasingly unlikely.

Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, formed the new administration with Tsvangirai to end months of feuding in the impoverished country. But Tsvangirai said two weeks ago he was boycotting the arrangement until problems had been resolved.

The IMF stopped balance of payment support to Zimbabwe in 1999 and while it resumed technical assistance to the country after the formation of a new unity government this year, it said on Thursday it would be some time before it resumed direct aid.

Officials from SADC, a regional grouping, opened talks on Thursday with the rival Zimbabwean parties in a bid to patch up the rift threatening the power-sharing government.

[original]

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