updated 12/10/2004 1:51:12 PM ET 2004-12-10T18:51:12

The International Bar Association accused Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Friday of conducting a reign of terror and said he should not be allowed to elude international justice.

In some of the harshest criticism of Mugabe to date, the association said there was staggering and well-documented evidence that his government has committed murder, rape, abduction and enslavement.

Mark Ellis, the bar association’s executive director, also said there had been a “woeful response to Mugabe’s crimes” by many African countries that he said have tried to prop up Mugabe’s government and deflect criticism of its human rights record.

The London-based organization is an association of 16,000 individual lawyers and more than 190 bar associations and law societies from every continent. The association’s Human Rights Institute works to promote human rights and preserve the independence of the judiciary.

Officials at the Zimbabwe presidency and communications ministry were not available for comment. But Mugabe has dismissed all such criticism as part of a campaign by Western governments, particularly Britain and the United States, to undermine Zimbabwe.

Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since bringing the country to independence from Britain in 1980.

Six-page condemnation
The attack on his regime was contained in a six-page IBA supplement on the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe published Friday in South Africa’s weekly Mail and Guardian and Zimbabwe’s weekend Independent newspapers. Zimbabwe’s only independent daily was shut down by the government in defiance of court orders.

“Zimbabwe’s descent into this unimaginable chaos is the result of the perverse policies of its president, Robert Mugabe,” Ellis said in the lead article.

“His systematic oppression of an increasingly impoverished people and his government’s widespread policy of subverting the press, the rule of law and human rights are a desperate and brutal attempt to retain political power at all costs.”

Ellis said other inhumane acts by Mugabe’s government include the systematic policy of denying food aid to anyone who is not a member of his ruling ZANU-PF party.

On Thursday, the ruling-party-dominated Parliament passed a bill that effectively bans all foreign-funded human rights and advocacy groups, the latest in a series of moves to crack down on dissent. Mugabe has yet to sign the bill into law.

“Robert Mugabe’s actions ... are also gross violations of international humanitarian law and he should be held accountable for his reign of terror,” Ellis said.

Africans urged to protest
Even though Zimbabwe has not ratified the International Criminal Court, Ellis said a post-Mugabe government could request an investigation and indictment against him.

“If Mugabe can manipulate and evade domestic and regional justice, he should not be able to elude international justice,” Ellis wrote.

Richard Goldstone, a retired South African Constitutional Court Justice and U.N. special prosecutor for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, said that Western criticism of state-sponsored violence and torture is viewed as an anti-African campaign.

“I am disappointed that there hasn’t been more action and louder voices in Africa condemning the situations in Zimbabwe,” Goldstone said in an interview for the supplement.

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