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Zimbabwe Must Lift Suspension of Humanitarian Aid

Minister of Health Accused of Violence against Opposition

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today urged the government of Zimbabwe to end its ban, issued last Friday, on humanitarian work. The ban will prevent many of the country's 1.3 million People with AIDS from receiving badly needed AIDS medications and home-based care. The ban will also prevent some 314,000 people from receiving food under the World Food Program, possibly triggering widespread famine.

PHR also called for an independent inquiry into reports that Zimbabwe's Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr. David Parirenyatwa, who is planning to participate in the United Nations General Assembly 2008 High Level Meeting on AIDS to take place June 11-12 in New York, has been directly engaged in threats of assault and murder to individuals if they do not vote for ZANU-PF candidate and incumbent Robert Mugabe in the presidential run-off election.

According to an affidavit made before a commissioner of oaths, on April 10, 2008, Dr. Parirenyatwa, came to the town of Murewa for a rally on behalf of ZANU-PF and, brandishing a gun, threatened members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change with death if they voted for MDC. Residents of Murewa, which despite electing Dr. Parirenyatwa to Parliament, has also shown strong support for the MDC, were forced by armed militias affiliated with ZANU-PF to attend the rally, on pain of beating or arrest. According to other reports, Dr. Parirenyatwa also broke up meetings of the MDC with threats of violence.

Dr. Parirenyatwa has denied involvement in the incident, claiming to be against use of violence in politics. SW Radio Africa (London), on June 2, however, reported on another incident in which Dr. Parirenyatwa was allegedly involved in assaults on opposition members in late May or early June that led to the deaths of two individuals who were severely beaten.

"Such serious allegations of violence directed by a government official against people who exercise their rights of free expression and voting, much less one charged to protect health and well being of the country's citizens, need to be investigated," said Frank Donaghue, CEO of Physicians for Human Rights.

PHR urged states participating in the High Level Meeting and the media to ask questions about the suspension of humanitarian aid and also the political violence in Zimbabwe, including actions by officials of the government and the ZANU-PF party to attack and intimidate its opponents in the run-up to the election.

The allegations take place as the government of Zimbabwe and the ZANU-PF party has been engaged in violence and intimidation against political opponents that has led to killings of dozens of people and the infliction of severe injuries among thousands.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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Kevin Short

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