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Perence Shiri - photo Reuters
British Invitation to Mugabe's Butcher

Panorama has discovered that the military commander behind the worst atrocities of Robert Mugabe's rule in Zimbabwe was invited to study at the British Ministry of Defence's most prestigious college.

The invitation came barely a year after Perence Shiri led the force that committed the most serious crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe.

Shiri commanded the 5th Brigade which carried out a reign of terror in Matabeleland during 1983 and 1984. The slaughter claimed thousands of civilian lives and thousands more were tortured.

Despite this, in 1986, Shiri took up a place at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London, an institution that describes itself as "the senior Defence academic institution in the United Kingdom. The most prestigious institution of its kind in the world".

Senior human rights activist Mike Auret, who is now an MP with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, compiled a report into the Matabeleland massacres. He tells Panorama: "Perence Shiri above all knew precisely what was happening. He gave the orders and he, if nobody else, deserves a world court. The crimes committed by the 5th Brigade under his command were gross crimes against humanity"

General Sir Edward Jones, who commanded the British Military Advisory and Training team from 1983 to 1985, tells Panorama: "Undoubtedly he was the man who was going to be important in Zimbabwe and I think it was important that we should influence him positively in so far as we could."

Perence Shiri
Perence Shiri: "Black Jesus"
Shiri went on to command the Zimbabwe Airforce and he organised the farm invasions by war veterans during the past 5 years in Zimbabwe.

During the campaign of terror in Matabeleland in 1983 and 1984 he was known as "Black Jesus". Panorama speaks to an eyewitness who saw Shiri select women in Silobela village in 1983 to be taken away to be raped, and to another who saw Shiri beat an old man unconscious.

In the programme, the leading British diplomat Lord Renwick - former ambassador to South Africa and the USA - calls for those responsible for crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe (including President Robert Mugabe) to be brought before an international war crimes tribunal.

On BBC One's Panorama he says: "When this sort of thing happens in Bosnia or Kosovo, the world gets its act together and acts, and Milosevic ends up facing a crimes tribunal in the Hague. Now if we really want to do something about these situations in Africa, we can't ... fail to try to do something similar if we really want to make a difference in Africa."

Panorama - Mugabe: The Price of Silence will be shown on BBC One at 2215GMT, Sunday 10 March.

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