JOHANNESBURG – Although the Chinese ship that was carrying arms to Zimbabwe, the An Yue Jiang, has reportedly turned back, we don’t know where else President Robert Mugabe’s military and paramilitary forces may be acquiring weapons. In light of the escalating violent repression of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change – and of those whose support apparently helped the MDC to prevail in the presidential election, the results of which have still not been announced after four weeks – an international arms embargo on Zimbabwe is urgently needed.
In addition, we call on the African Union, with the support of the United Nations, to send an investigative mission to Zimbabwe to determine what additional measures may be required to carry out the internationally accepted “responsibility to protect.”
The concept of the “responsibility to protect” was adopted unanimously by the UN World Summit in 2005. Yet, it remains controversial because it is often assumed that it implies the use of military force for purposes of humanitarian intervention. We believe, as was recognized at the UN World Summit, that military force should only be a last resort when needed to prevent or halt large-scale loss of life. The first step is to gather reliable information so that it is possible to know what international measures are required to prevent a disaster.
In the case of Zimbabwe, it is extremely difficult to obtain such information. Mugabe’s regime has systematically shut down independent media, attacked independent civil society organizations, denied visas to foreign journalists, and has arrested and beaten journalists who nevertheless enter the country.