Genocide Watch, an organisation concerned with the prevention and punishment of mass murder, has accused Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and several of his top Military officials of genocide.
The Washington DC-based group has classified the 1980s massacre of over 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland, which was perpetuated under the auspices of the notorious leader, as such.
The Gukurahundi massacres, as they have come to be known, resulted in the death of thousands of innocent Zimbabweans at the hands of the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade, a military unit directly subordinated to then Prime Minister Mugabe.
Genocide Watch President Gregory Stanton has called for the creation of a special Tribunal, composed of UN and Zimbabwean officials, to try Mugabe and his Generals on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
“We call upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a full investigation of the Gukurahundi, with the aim of establishing a mixed UN-Zimbabwean Tribunal to put Mugabe and his co-perpetrators on trial for their crimes,” Stanton told The Zimbabwean.
Stanton argues that the crimes qualify as genocide as they were conducted by the exclusively Shona 5th Brigade and targeted the ethnic Ndebele people. However, the massacres occurred before the establishment of the International Criminal Court and thus the tribunal lacks jurisdiction. However, the UN Security Council can still refer the matter to the ICC.
Stanton pointed out that council had previously referred the Darfur situation to the ICC, with the result that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was indicted for genocide.
He went on to insist that the time for justice has not passed, despite the fact that the Zimbabwean government seemingly think that the statute of limitations has expired.
“They think they have gotten away with mass murder. It is time to end such impunity in Zimbabwe,” Stanton said.
In the early 1980s, in his role as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Mugabe ordered the Fifth Brigade to suppress resistance in the volatile Matabeleland regions.
Acting on his orders, the Brigade shot, burned and beat an estimated 20 000 civilians to death, including women and children. Thousands more disappeared or were displaced by the violence.
Zimbabwe’s current government includes ministers and top army officials implicated in the atrocities. They are suspected of clinging to power in order to avoid prosecution.
Genocide Watch has named Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantine Chiwenga and Air Force commander Perence Shiri as being amongst the offenders.
Mugabe has described the killings as an “act of madness”, while at the same time denying culpability and refusing to formally apologise. In the hope of preserving a delicate Unity Accord that he cosigned with the late Joshua Nkomo in 1987, the ailing leader has apparently chosen to sweep the massacres under the carpet.