UN Calls for Suspension of Sanctions on Zimbabwe

Posted May 25th, 2012 at 11:20 am (UTC-5)
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The United Nations human rights chief, concluding a five-day visit to Zimbabwe, has called on Western nations to suspend sanctions long enough to let the country implement reforms.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay spoke to reporters Friday in the capital, Harare. She said the sanctions, imposed to protest Zimbabwe's human rights record, are discouraging foreign banks and investment, which ends up hurting the country's poorest and most vulnerable people.

Zimbabwe's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa welcomed Pillay's comments and took the issue further, calling for an unconditional end to the sanctions.

The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle in 2002, over allegations of human rights violations and voter fraud. The sanctions include travel and financial restrictions.

Pillay was finishing a five-day visit to Zimbabwe to assess human rights conditions.

On Wednesday Pillay met with longtime President Robert Mugabe.

Pillay described the meeting as “very important” saying that during the talks President Mugabe outlined some of Zimbabwe's historical events and how they related to current issues.

Pillay says she commended Mr. Mugabe's recent calls to end political violence.

The 88-year-old President Mugabe made no comment.

Rights groups say that during the 2008 elections, supporters of President Mugabe killed, tortured and beat hundreds of political opponents.

After the elections, Mr. Mugabe and longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai formed a unity government that remains fragile.

Zimbabwe is due to hold elections within the next year, though Mr. Tsvangirai's party insists a new constitution should be drafted and approved before any polls are held.

Mr. Tsvangirai, who met Pillay on Tuesday, said he hopes the forthcoming elections will be free, fair, and legitimate.