Tuesday, September 14, 2004Canada has not done enough to help resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe, according to a new report just released by a Canadian fact-finding mission, including representatives from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Amnesty International, the Anglican, Presbyterian, United churches, the Canadian Bar Association (International Development Committee), and the United Steelworkers. “We call on the Canadian government to convey a clear sense of urgency by appointing a Special Envoy on Zimbabwe,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, a member of the delegation. “Everywhere we turned we heard tales of torture, hunger and political repression. This Special Envoy could work with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and other relevant bodies to help find a more constructive means to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe including by engaging the government in a more effective manner,” said delegation member Grace-Edward Galabuzi of the United Steelworkers. “Zimbabweans from all walks of life asked us to help protect human rights activists, to provide support and solidarity, and to press the government of Robert Mugabe to respect human rights,“ said Rhea Whitehead delegation member representing Canadian churches. While the following findings are bleak, the courage and determination of Zimbabweans to speak out in the face of intimidation and fear is inspiring. Once the breadbasket of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe can no longer feed itself. By October more than 2.5 million people will need food aid and food is being used as a political weapon. Every member of the opposition party has either been personally assaulted, had family members assaulted or murdered, or has suffered property destruction. Sixteen per cent of opposition members of parliament have been tortured by police in police cells. A proposed law will restrict non-governmental organizations (NGO's) and give the government the authority to ban foreign funding to local organizations, the only source of information in Zimbabwe. The country is in economic free fall with inflation running at 600% and more than 80% of the country living in poverty. Each week an estimated 4,500 people die from HIV/AIDS, up from 3,800 a year ago. This has left more than 1 million orphans in the country. Life expectancy has plummeted to 34 years of age - it was 58 in 1995. More than 3 million Zimbabweans (out of 12 million) have fled the country, mostly into South Africa and Botswana. Some 1.2 million agricultural workers and peasant farmers have been internally displaced by violent land invasions, which saw 5,000 commercial farmers lose their farms. The last daily independent newspaper, The Daily News was closed in February. The press has lived in virtual reign of terror. Independent voices have all but been silenced. Once a highly respected judiciary, the Zimbabwean justice system is unrecognizable. Judges are intimidated and courtrooms overrun by violent mobs. Click here for a copy of the delegation’s report, Zimbabwe Under Siege: A Canadian Civil Society Perspective For more information contact: Alison Armstrong (member of delegation) Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (416)466-7929 John Tackaberry Media & External Communications Amnesty International Canada (613)744-7667 x236
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