UN human rights chief Navi Pillay today urged Western countries to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe and its President Robert Mugabe.
Pillay, a South African, said that sanctions are hurting Zimbabwe's poor. She also argued that the sanctions, intended to target Mugabe and his loyalists, were discouraging foreign investment and having other unintended consequences, the Associated Press said.
Western nations imposed sanctions in protest of human rights abuses under Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party. Sanctions were tightened following the bloody 2008 elections in which Mugabe's supporters were accused of killing and torturing hundreds of Zimbabweans.
Pillay's five-day visit to Zimbabwe, the first such trip since the elections, comes two weeks after a landmark decision in which a South African court ordered prosecutors to investigate Zimbabwean officials over allegations that they tortured opposition figures.
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Pillay also urged Zimbabwe to pass reforms to avoid violence in the next election, which is expected early next year.
"I would urge those countries that are currently applying sanctions on Zimbabwe to suspend them, at least until the conduct of the elections and related reforms are clear," Pillay said in Harare, Agence France-Presse reported.
"Sanctions should be entirely suspended for people to entirely focus on economic issues that need to be addressed," she said.
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch earlier this year said sanctions should remain "until Zimbabwe carries out concrete human rights and institutional reforms."
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