Riot police officers keep watch outside the Tredgold Building Magistrate court in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Picture: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

Johannesburg - Western countries have condemned Zimbabwe’s heavy-handed crackdown on opposition demonstrations protesting the country’s deteriorating economic situation.

The European Union, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States released a statement on Tuesday expressing their concern over the attacks on opposition politicians and human rights activists, the East African reported.

“Intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders, opposition politicians – prior to, during and following the demonstration in Harare on August 16 – are cause for great concern,” read the joint statement.

“The heads of mission call on the authorities to respect the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression, as well as to peaceful protest, and urge all political party leaders and supporters to abstain from threats and incitement to violence as well as acts of violence or vandalism.”

The statement added that the brutal crackdown by security forces hindered President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s efforts to transform Zimbabwe politically, adding that only by addressing the human rights abuses would Harare’s credibility in tackling the various challenges facing it be restored.

The release of the critical statement followed the banning of another opposition protest, this time in the central city of Gweru on Tuesday.

African News Agency (ANA)