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Friday, June 20, 2008

Time to End Mu-Garbage tyranny in Zimbabwe

By James Bone, Francis Elliott and Jonathan Clayton
Times online

With just a week to go before Zimbabwe’s run-off elections – and with the body count growing – President Mugabe has been warned that he could be hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the atrocities inflicted on his opponents.

A key Western diplomat, speaking yesterday on condition of anonymity, said: “He needs to know he is moments away from an ICC indictment.”

Twelve bodies of activists, most of them showing signs of torture, were found across Zimbabwe yesterday.

In New York, Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, convened a crisis meeting at the United Nations. She said: “By its actions, the Mugabe regime has given up any pretence that the June 27 elections will be allowed to proceed in a free and fair manner. We have reached the point where stronger international action is needed.”

Also yesterday, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, was denied a passport, and his deputy, Tendai Biti, was charged with subversion and election rigging – offences that carry the death penalty.

African leaders began to desert Mr Mugabe. A day after President Mbeki of South Africa failed to make any headway in face-to-face talks with President Mugabe, neighbouring states delivered their strongest condemnation yet.

Bernard Membe, the Tanzanian Foreign Minister, said: “There is every sign that these elections will never be free or fair.” He said that he and the foreign ministers of Swaziland and Angola – the peace and security troika from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – would write to their presidents to “do something urgently” to save Zimbabwe.

A senior SADC diplomatic source said: “The last allies he has in the world – SADC – are now saying they have had enough and this disgrace cannot go on. His obduracy has united them against him. They are trying to make him realise that a poll victory is no victory.”

South Africa, which has advocated “quiet diplomacy”, snubbed Dr Rice’s efforts. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Foreign Minister, skipped the UN meeting on Zimbabwe but attended a separate meeting with Dr Rice on sexual violence. They met briefly. Dr Rice said that she and Ms Zuma wanted the same thing for Zimbabwe.

Any attempt to bring Mr Mugabe before the court in The Hague faces formidable obstacles. The ICC has charged 11 Africans – two from Sudan, four from Uganda, one from the Central African Republic and four from the Democratic Republic of the Congo – but it does not have jurisdiction over Zimbabwe. It would have to be referred to the court by the 15-nation UN Security Council.

The Security Council is so split that the US, holding the presidency this month, is having trouble even holding a briefing on the violence. US diplomats may have to force a procedural vote to get Zimbabwe on to the agenda because of resistance from council members such as South Africa, Russia, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Libya.

The US does not itself recognise the ICC, although it allowed the council to refer the Darfur crisis to the court. An official told The Times that the Bush Administration would be reluctant to accept another “carve-out” to the ICC by referring Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean authorities are outraged by any suggestion that Mr Mugabe might face an international court. Florence Ziyambi, the prosecutor, cited the threat of international prosecution as one of the grounds for charging Mr Biti. “They are alleging that the President is a criminal since they want to take him to The Hague,” she told the court. Whatever happens on the 27th, Mu-Garbage must be stopped.

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