Zimbabwe militants disrupt human rights meeting
Harare: Militants violently disrupted a hearing by a Parliamentary panel receiving submissions on proposed human rights laws for Zimbabwe`s new constitution, rights groups said Saturday.
Witnesses and rights activists said a crowd of up to 200 militants besieged the Parliament in downtown Harare and some burst into the building Saturday and shouted down participants. One lawmaker and two journalists were assaulted and the hearing was abandoned.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights group said police intervened to escort lawmakers from the Parliament.
A similar hearing in the southern town of Masvingo was abandoned on Thursday after unrest blamed on militants of President Robert Mugabe`s party widely accused of rights violations.
Two other provincial meetings to discuss a proposed Human Rights Bill and the setting up of a human rights investigation commission have also been disrupted this month, the lawyers` group said.
It said in a statement later Saturday the militants insisted participants at the meeting sing the national anthem and abused and assaulted legislator Brian Tshuma of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai`s party.
Journalists were accused "of not singing the national anthem and writing falsehoods in their newspapers" about Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, the statement said.
One journalist was injured.
"Eventually the mob left the building and spent considerable time dancing and protesting outside Parliament. Police did nothing to disperse the crowd, even when they attacked vehicles and members of the public who were passing by," the statement said.
Lawyers at the Parliament said the chaotic scenes prevented Zimbabweans "peacefully and in their diversity" debating proposed human rights legislation they say is already flawed.
A planned state human rights commission is only empowered to probe alleged abuses that occurred after the formation of a shaky power-sharing coalition in 2009 between Mugabe and the former opposition led by Tsvangirai.
Killings, death threats, state-orchestrated political violence, torture and rape reached a peak surrounding disputed elections in 2008 that led to the coalition agreement brokered by regional leaders.
On Wednesday, police stopped a youth meeting scheduled to be addressed by U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles A. Ray and militants from Mugabe`s party overran that gathering.
Rights groups say political intimidation has surged since Mugabe called for early elections to bring an end to the coalition.
Ray protested afterward that "elements of the security sector and some political parties remain afraid of allowing a free exchange of ideas."
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