The outcome of the Zimbabwean Presidential elections, held between 9–11 March this year, reflects an election campaign held in an atmosphere of fear, terror, and intimidation.
No election can be considered free and fair when conducted in an environment in which there is no respect for the rule of law, when intimidation tactics including violence and torture are being systematically used, and when the media is unable to report openly on the election proceedings.
The IRCT has been monitoring and documenting systematic violence in Zimbabwe for the past three years, and remains seriously alarmed at the reports of ongoing violence following the election last weekend.
According to a report, released on 13 March 2002, by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Observer Mission, the election was "characterized by high levels of polarization and political intolerance, lack of communication amongst stakeholders and lack of free flow of information to the electorate, which are necessary conditions for democracy to prevail."
At the end of its report, the SADC mission states that "the climate of insecurity obtaining in Zimbabwe since the 2000 parliamentary elections was such that the electoral process could not be said to adequately comply with the Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC region."
A report analyzing the Presidential election in terms of the SADC recommendations was released 14 March by the Amani Trust (Matabeleland, Zimbabwe), the network of independent monitors (Kwa-zulu Natal South Africa) and Physicians for Human Rights (Denmark). In the months before the elections there was credible evidence of youth militia groups involved in organized and systematic violence, including sexual torture. The tension and violence increased during and immediately after the election.
The level of political violence reveals a brutal repressive regime, which denied the people of Zimbabwe the right to a free and fair election. The IRCT appealed to the European Union and the international community to urgently reconsider all diplomatic and foreign relations with Zimbabwe.
The human rights community of Zimbabwe must receive the urgent support and protection of the international community while, at the same time, pressure must be brought to bear on the Government of Zimbabwe to restore the rule of law and respect for human rights.
In a letter to the European Council in advance of the European Council meeting in Barcelona 15-16 March, the IRCT called upon the EU and its Member States to:
- closely monitor the situation in Zimbabwe, and press the Zimbabwean authorities to restore the rule of law, and to prevent further violence and human rights violations;
- strengthen and prioritize the funding of and cooperation with NGOs working in the field of human rights and democratization in Zimbabwe.