JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, June 9 (UPI) -- A human rights group said Monday the Zimbabwean government is responsible for at least 36 political killings ahead of this month's presidential runoff election.
The African branch of Human Rights Watch, based in South Africa, said in a report that the deaths and an extensive array of other politically motivated violence and intimidation aimed at supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change party has "extinguished any chance" the June 27 runoff vote will be a fair and free contest between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai.
Human Rights Watch urged the African Union and the Southern Africa Development Community to exert whatever influence they could on the Mugabe regime to "end the violence and hold those responsible to account."
In all, the group said, the political violence in Zimbabwe has allegedly included 2,000 victims of abductions, beatings, torture and killings by officials and supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party, the armed forces and police, "war veterans" and youth militia.
"Since the runoff was announced, the violence in Zimbabwe has gotten even worse," Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a news release. "Zimbabweans can't vote freely if they fear their vote may get them killed."