A UNITED States-based international human rights group says President Robert Mugabe and several of his most senior officials should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity after ruling that the killing of thousands of civilians in Matabeleland and Midlands between 1982 and 1987 was “genocide”.
Genocide Watch is the first major rights group to call the mass civilian murder, known as Gukurahundi, a genocide. Rights groups estimate 20,000 people were killed.
“There is no statute of limitations for genocide or crimes against humanity,” said Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch.
“We campaigned for over thirty years to bring the leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia to justice for genocide and crimes against humanity, and they are finally on trial. We call upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a full investigation of the Gukurahundi, with the aim of establishing a mixed UN – Zimbabwean Tribunal to put Mugabe and his co-perpetrators on trial for their crimes.
“They think they have gotten away with mass murder. It is time to end such impunity in Zimbabwe.”
In a statement posted on its website on Friday, Genocide Watch said: “Genocide is a special crime against humanity, because it must be intentionally carried out against a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.
“The Gukurahundi meets the definition of genocide because it was carried out by the North-Korean trained, exclusively Shona Fifth Brigade under President Mugabe and it targeted ethnic Matabele people.
“Shona youth militias, the notorious ‘green bombers’, also participated in the genocide. These militias still exist, like neo-Nazi groups, and conduct terror campaigns against opponents of Mugabe’s Zanu PF in election campaigns.”
Genocide watch fingered army commander General Constantine Chiwenga, and State Security Minister Sidney Sekeramayi as some of the officials “directly involved” in the killings.
Because the Gukurahundi operation occurred before the establishment of the International Criminal Court, it would not have jurisdiction over the genocide, but a mixed UN – Zimbabwean Criminal Tribunal could be created, like the one established in Cambodia, to try Mugabe and other leaders of the genocide, Genocide Watch said.
The watchdog said for the arrests to be made, “it would require defeat of the Zanu PF regime in the next election.”
“The time for justice has come,” said Stanton. “Mugabe’s reign of terror is near its end.”
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, tipped to wrest the presidency from Mugabe at the nest elections, has ruled out retrospective prosecutions although his Movement for Democratic Change party is open to the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission where rights abusers admit their crimes, but are protected by an amnesty against civil and criminal prosecutions.
Tsvangirai says fear of prosecution has driven Mugabe to cling to power, aided by some of his military chiefs who were involved in the Gukurahundi operation and more recent rights abuses.