Zimbabwean detentions over Egypt a step backwards: Pillay

1st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The UN human rights chief said Tuesday that the detention of Zimbabweans meeting about Egypt protests was a serious step backwards and underlined a growing crackdown on civil society in the country.

"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," said Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"All those who are being illegally held in detention should be released without delay. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are rights guaranteed under Zimbabwean and international law," she called.

Zimbabwean police arrested 46 rights activists on February 19 and charged them with treason. They were also tortured last week, a lawyer had said.

"I see these unwarranted arrests as a serious step backwards, especially with elections possibly taking place later this year," said the UN rights chief.

"The government needs to take measures, beginning with the release of these activists, to restore some faith in the country's political processes," added Pillay.

The arrests have drawn international condemnation, including from the US State Department, which said Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe "did not learn the right lessons" from the popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.

© 2011 AFP

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