- The Zimbabwean government has today announced the shocking last minute withdrawal of its invitation for a visit by the United Nations independent expert on torture, who was already en route to the country, citing consultations between the Government of National Unity and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, had just arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, when he was informed that his mission was being postponed, the UN reported.
Mr Nowak said in a press release that he welcomes the SADC initiative, as well as all efforts to resolve the political crisis in Zimbabwe. But he however underscored that he is not convinced that the consultations, scheduled to be held tomorrow, are a valid reason to cancel his eight-day mission shortly before he was due to arrive.
Earlier this year, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, and President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party agreed to form a Government of National Unity, following months of tensions after disputed presidential elections.
Allegations that MDC supporters and human rights defenders have been arrested, harassed and intimidated in recent days underscore the urgent need for an objective fact-finding mission by an independent UN expert, Mr Nowak stressed, calling on the government to allow his visit to proceed as planned.
The trip by Mr Nowak to Zimbabwe, would have been the first open human rights probe into the country that has been ruined by political turmoil and an unprecedented economic slump.
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