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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2006, 16:01 GMT
Zimbabwe police 'brutality rises'
By Peter Biles
BBC News, Johannesburg

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe
President Mugabe is accused of colonial-era behaviour
Police brutality in Zimbabwe has increased since the government began a crackdown against the opposition, two non-governmental organisations say.

The Solidarity Peace Trust and the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation say police brutality under President Robert Mugabe has become routine.

They say Zimbabwe's government has reverted to patterns of state control established under colonialism.

The two NGOs examined the details of 2,000 politically-motivated arrests.

They say that increasing police brutality coincided with the rise of the opposition, primarily the Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

'Vicious reaction'

The report says that political arrests peaked in 2003, when the ability of the opposition to organise was at its height.

The Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, who is one of the government's most prominent critics, says state reaction to peaceful protest has become swift and vicious.

"The September 2006 attempt by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to march on the streets of Harare lasted less than two minutes," he said.

"The few activists who took part were brutally tortured and beaten."

The new report concludes that since the end of last year, the opposition in Zimbabwe has been in serious disarray, and has no effective response to state oppression.

The government's critics argue that the police force no longer serves the Zimbabwean people, but merely President Mugabe's political party - Zanu-PF.

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