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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 August, 2004, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Zimbabwe election torture warning
By Grant Ferrett
BBC, London

Zimbabwe torture victim
The opposition complain of widespread intimidation
A British-based lobby group has accused Zimbabwe's government of carrying out a systematic campaign of violence and torture against its opponents.

The campaign group, Redress, says the scale of abuse increases in the run-up to elections.

Their report refers to documented examples compiled by local human rights groups of nearly 9,000 violations in Zimbabwe from the year 2001 to 2003.

It covers incidents such as torture, abduction and murder.

The accounts are based on the work of human rights groups inside Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean government, which routinely dismisses allegations of state-sponsored violence, has so far made no comment.

Impunity

Redress says the abuses were carried out by government employees, such as the police, or supporters of President Robert Mugabe's party, Zanu-PF.

Police in Zimbabwe
The police are among those accused of abuse
The executive director of Redress, Kate Rose-Sender, says the violence was particularly pronounced before the presidential election two years ago.

"There seems to be the kind of correlation that indicates that the state is using torture in a direct attempt to control the people around the time of elections.

"They're doing it with impunity, and it's an impunity which we're trying to address," she says. With parliamentary elections expected to take place in March, the report concludes that the problem of organised torture should be tackled as a matter of urgency.

Redress expresses the hope that Zimbabwe's neighbours will put pressure on it.

But there is little sign of any change in the low-key approach of the regional power, South Africa.




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