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Zimbabwe deports UN investigator to South Africa

Zimbabwe deports UN investigator to South Africa

Zimbabwean immigration officials barred the United Nation's torture investigator from entering their country and returned him to South Africa Thursday, an act he termed a "serious diplomatic incident" that reflects a split in the coalition government.
"There are certainly some parts of the government who do not want me to assess the current conditions of torture," Manfred Nowak angrily told reporters in Johannesburg upon arrival from Zimbabwe.
Nowak said he had a meeting scheduled with Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai Thursday at the start of his mission to investigate alleged attacks on Tsvangirai supporters by militants linked to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party. Tsvangirai, a longtime opposition leader, joined the government with Mugabe in February, but withdrew temporarily from Cabinet earlier this month after accusing ZANU-PF of human rights violations.
Nowak called his treatment "alarming" evidence of the split in the southern African country's coalition government.
He had received word from other Zimbabwean officials that he should not come only after he had flown from Austria to South Africa en route to neighboring Zimbabwe. Still, Nowak flew to Zimbabwe Wednesday, citing his invitation from Tsvangirai. When he arrived, he said, airport immigration officials told him the foreign ministry had not cleared his meeting with the prime minister. He spent the night in the airport.
"I have never been treated as rudely by any government as the government of Zimbabwe," Nowak snapped.
Nowak said that he contacted Tsvangirai's office from the airport, which sent a high-level delegation to fetch him. The delegation was barred by airport security, and was even told Nowak was not at the airport, the U.N. envoy said.
If Tsvangirai "is not in a position to clear my entrance to the country, that is a very, very alarming signal about the power structure of the government," Nowak said.
Under Zimbabwe's coalition agreement, the foreign ministry is controlled by Mugabe's party, in power for nearly three decades and accused of trampling on human rights and democracy. Home Affairs, which oversees immigration as well as police, is shared by ZANU-PF and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, after the longtime rivals were unable to agree on which would control the key ministry.
"This is not the way the United Nations should be dealt with by a member state of the United Nations," Nowak said, demanding an explanation from Zimbabwean authorities.
The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement Wednesday that Nowak was initially invited to Zimbabwe from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4.


Updated : 2021-04-11 10:14 GMT+08:00