Pro-Mugabe attacks on the rise - HRW
Johannesburg - Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday warned against attacks by supporters of President Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe maps out a new constitution with 13 public meetings called off in the capital.
"Zanu-PF supporters and their allies continue to commit abuses with impunity, and the police remain partisan," said Rona Peligal, the New York-based body's Africa director.
"The government of Zimbabwe needs to put a halt to the attacks and allow the constitutional outreach to proceed without violence."
Outreach meetings on a new constitution since June have seen increasing violence and intimidation, HRW said. An attack claimed the life of a supporter of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last week.
The violence was mainly by supporters of Mugabe's former sole ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), or its war veteran allies.
"In the past few days, the violence has worsened, as the outreach meetings have moved to the capital, Harare, and the city of Bulawayo. Because of the violence, 13 meetings in Harare were suspended," HRW said in a statement.
Zimbabwe is creating a new constitution as part of a road map by the unity government to fresh elections, after veteran leader Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a unity government last February following months of turmoil.
"This violence and intimidation does not bode well for the referendum and elections that could be held next year," cautioned Peligal.
"Without rights reforms and accountability for continuing abuses, the kind of violence that plagued the 2008 elections is likely to happen again."
The unity pact calls for a new constitution to be approved in a referendum, paving the way to new elections.