GENEVA (AFP) — Zimbabwe has expelled a UN human rights official in the run-up to bitterly contested elections, the world body's human rights commissioner Louise Arbour said Wednesday.
The Geneva-based desk officer travelled to Zimbabwe on Sunday but was expelled on Tuesday, said Arbour, who denounced the move by Harare as "uncooperative" and "untimely".
"This is a particularly untimely position taken by the government," said Arbour, who steps down from her post as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) at the end of this month.
Arbour said the visit was one of a series of missions undertaken over the past six months in Zimbabwe involving both the Geneva-based official and the UNHCR's representative in Pretoria who covers the region.
"We're very disappointed, this seems to fit into a pattern of the government taking a very uncooperative attitude vis a vis many international actors in the humanitarian sector," Arbour told journalists.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is seeking to topple President Robert Mugabe's 28-year rule of Zimbabwe in the June 27 run-off but many observers fear growing violence will prevent free and fair elections.
The Zimbabwe government said Wednesday it will screen local election observers to ensure they have "no pre-conceived ideas" about the vote.
"We are going to assess the status in respect to their independence and neutrality," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa was quoted as saying by the state-owned Herald newspaper.
An independent monitoring agency, one of a handful of local groups authorised to observe the elections, has said some of its observers were now too afraid to monitor the upcoming poll due to fears for their security.
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