SLUG: 2-296496 Zimbabwe/Human Rights (L)
TITLE=ZIMBABWE / HUMAN RIGHTS (L-ONLY)
INTRO: The leading human rights organization in Zimbabwe, the Amani Trust, has closed down, following government threats to arrest its officials. Peta Thornycroft reports from Harare.
TEXT: The offices of the Amani Trust were closed Friday, and its officials were lying low. People close to the trust say its leaders believe the government has every intention of carrying out threats made earlier this week by the welfare minister, July Moyo.
In a speech in parliament on Wednesday, Mr. Moyo said the government was going to arrest officials of the Amani Trust, as well as several other non-governmental organizations, because they were not properly registered under the Private Voluntary Organizations Act.
Members of the Amani Trust said Friday, they had deliberately not registered under the act, because they believed the government would not register a group that, among things, addresses questions of political violence.
Instead, the group formed a legal trust, and registered it with the Deeds Office.
The Zimbabwe government has regularly accused the Amani Trust of being a hotbed of support for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The trust has also received funding from the British government, which makes it, according to government leaders, part of a plot to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.
But the trust has always maintained that it is strictly a human rights organization, and does not side with any political group. Before the March presidential elections, it provided medical support for victims of political violence, dispensing aid to members of the ruling party, as well as the opposition.
Its investigations, however, have frequently drawn government criticism. In a recent report on a wide range of human rights abuses, it found that more than 90 percent of them were committed by members of the ruling party, ZANU-P-F.
The closure of the Amani Trust has caused dismay among human rights supporters in Zimbabwe. Many say it was the last organization left that provided assistance at a time of increasing repression in Zimbabwe. (Signed)
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