Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Zimbabwe conditions 'worsening'

Child Zimbabwean refugee in a container in September 2008
Amnesty says millions of Zimbabweans will need food aid

Conditions for ordinary Zimbabweans are growing ever more desperate as the political crisis continues, says human rights group Amnesty International.

In a report, Amnesty warns that many people are at risk of extreme hunger after a failed agricultural season.

It says many victims of the political violence that followed the March elections were subsistence farmers.

Amnesty has released video footage of a farmer said to have been beaten up by secret police earlier in October.

Some famers have been crippled and are now unable to work the land, the group  says, leaving them dependent on food aid.

Amnesty says much of the violence was state-sponsored, often perpetrated by members of the security forces in government vehicles.

I am now disabled, I can't work in the field, I want my attackers brought to justice

The report, Zimbabwe - Time for Accountability, urges southern African leaders to resolve the political crisis.

Although a power-sharing agreement was signed six weeks ago, there is deadlock over the allocation of cabinet posts.

"Every day that passes without a political solution, the living conditions for ordinary Zimbabweans become more and more desperate," says Amnesty International's Zimbabwe researcher Simeon Mawanza.

Mr Mawanza warned that "the most vulnerable Zimbabweans are at risk of extreme hunger".

"If we think the food situation in Zimbabwe is bad now, just wait until the end of this year, when half of the population is likely to need aid," he said.

Victims of beatings

Amnesty said the majority of victims it had interviewed said they could name their attackers, most of whom were in the security forces, so-called war veterans or local activists with the ruling Zanu-PF.

In video footage released by Amnesty, a 26-year-old farmer and MDC supporter recalls an attack earlier in October, which left her with internal injuries.


One farmer, whose face has been obscured to protect her identity, said she was attacked this month - filmed by Amnesty International

"I locked my doors, but they broke them down and came in. They started beating me, they hit me on the head with a big stick and kicked me in the chest while I was on the floor," she said.

Lyn, an 86-year-old farmer, told Amnesty her arm was broken for not attending Zanu-PF meetings.

She told the rights group: "I am now disabled. I can't work in the field. I want to be compensated for the injuries. I want [my attackers] to be brought to justice."

President Robert Mugabe denies his government backed a campaign of violence and torture against supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

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