Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: UNHCR chief biased, insulting

2011-03-02 20:05

Special Report

AU 'mixed signals' as Mugabe tipped for top job
AU 'mixed signals' as Mugabe tipped for top job

African leaders are expected to elect Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe to the 54-member AU’s rotating chair, a choice critics say risks tarnishing the organisation’s reputation.

Geneva - Zimbabwe on Wednesday accused United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay of being biased against the country and suggested she was a pawn of Western efforts to undermine President Robert Mugabe.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a long time Mugabe loyalist, launched the attack against Pillay, a South African former judge at the international criminal court, after she criticised arrests in Zimbabwe last week.

"We take great exception to the biased, mischievous and partisan stance that the person of the High Commissioner has taken over the years with respect to our country," Chinamasa told the UN Human Rights Council.

Zimbabwe was determined "to ensure that the [Pillay] office is immunised from being used as a pawn in the wider political game," he declared.

Like many other African and Asian countries, many of them members of the 47-member rights council, Zimbabwe has been increasingly angered at Pillay's outspoken defence of the right to free speech around the world.

But the long-ruling Mugabe and close aides are also believed to be alarmed at the decision last Friday by the rights body, of which Zimbabwe is not currently a member, to ask the UN General Assembly to suspend Libya's membership.

The dominant non-aligned movement (NAM) bloc in the council normally shields other developing countries from any serious criticism and only three months ago hailed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's Libya as a model of human rights observance.

Precedent

Zimbabwe itself comes up for a review of its rights record in the body later this year.

Diplomats from less authoritarian members of the bloc say Zimbabwe and some other NAM members fear the action against Libya - confirmed in the General Assembly on Tuesday - could be a precedent for action against them.

In a statement on Monday, Pillay said the arrests last week of 46 people attending a discussion meeting in Harare on recent events in Egypt and Tunisia - where popular protests have led to the ousting of presidents - were illegal.

"These arrests appear to be part of a growing crackdown on civil society and members of the political opposition, and are a clear sign that the establishment of a consolidated democracy in Zimbabwe is still very far from assured," she said.

Chinamasa said the detainees were held for "organising activities aimed at subverting a lawful government."

Pillay's comments were "tantamount to interference in the judicial process and demonstrate a contempt for our institutions".

- Reuters

Read more on:    unhcr  |  robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa
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