Australia Challenges Mugabe to Stop Harassing Protesters

Zimbabwe police Harassing Protesters

The Australian embassy in Harare has challenged President Robert Mugabe to ensure law enforcement agencies respect the country's Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression.

The embassy said the Canberra government was worried about the use of force by the police against Zimbabweans demonstrating "peacefully" against the government.

Zimbabweans have lately staged a series of protests against President Mugabe's government and demanding the veteran leader's exit from power for allegedly ruing the once-promising country.

Despite being authorised by the courts, most of the protests have been brutally crushed by the police using tear gas batons and water cannons.

In a statement following last Friday's violence in Harare, Australia ambassador to Zimbabwe Suzzane MacCourt said she had been monitoring the protests great concern.

She said Harare should respect "people's democratic right to stage peaceful demonstrations which are guaranteed by the constitution".

"The Australian Embassy shares the concerns of many Zimbabweans at the violence which has occurred over recent weeks in Zimbabwe. The use of violence is not acceptable under any circumstance," said the envoy.

"The Australian Embassy wishes to emphasise that the rule of law, respect for human rights, right to free speech, and freedom of assembly and other democratic freedoms are at the heart of the Zimbabwean Constitution and must be respected by all parties.

"We encourage the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure the democratic freedoms of all Zimbabweans are fully protected."

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