Zimbabwe prime minister decries ongoing violence

Zimbabwe's prime minister said Tuesday that political violence is continuing despite denials by perpetrators who have targeted his supporters.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, a day after President Robert Mugabe's party, in a fragile three-year coalition government, insisted to the envoy there was no state-sponsored violence in the country.

Tsvangirai, who was a victim of torture at the hands of police ahead of violent elections in 2008, said he was striving for the next proposed elections to be "free and fair and away from violence."

Pillay said she had raised many "areas of concern" on violence with Tsvangirai.

Heading to a peace vigil prayer meeting before the 2008 elections, Tsvangirai was arrested and injured in beatings by police using whips, wooden planks and iron bars in police cells in the western Harare township of Highfield. Authorities claimed the meeting had not been authorized under sweeping security laws. Several of his aides were also severely wounded. Surgeons removed the kidney of one top aide who testified he was repeatedly beaten as Tsvangirai and the others were forced to lie stomach-down on the ground.

Pillay said her mission was find out how the coalition government was going to "protect ordinary people from such violence" in the next polls.

She said Tsvangirai had managed to convince her that he was committed to upholding human rights by setting up a human rights investigation commission before the proposed elections.

A debate on the formation of a new state human rights commission to probe alleged abuses after the formation of the coalition in 2009 was violently disrupted by militants loyal to Mugabe at the Harare Parliament building last year.

The nation's main independent human rights groups met with Pillay earlier Tuesday and cited concerns about continuing arbitrary arrests of Mugabe's opponents, many of whom are still said to be languishing in prisons.