London, June 9 : Human Rights Watch has said that the campaign of terror sweeping Zimbabwe is being directly organised by a military junta that took over the running of the country after President Robert Mugabe's shock election defeat in March.
Details of the organised violence are contained in a report released today by HRW, corroborated by senior Western diplomats who describe the situation in Zimbabwe as a "military coup by stealth".
The tight circle of securocrats, who sit on the Joint Operations Command (JOC) committee, are now believed to be in day-to-day charge of Zimbabwe's Government.
The human-rights group and the diplomats name Zimbabwe's effective rulers as the Joint Operations Command, a shadowy security politburo made up of military and police generals, senior intelligence officers, prison service officials and leaders of the ruling Zanu (PF) party.
They ensured that Mugabe did not step down after his defeat in the presidential election's first round in March and are now masterminding a campaign of terror to suppress the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and guarantee victory for Mugabe in the June 27 run-off. The report maps a chain of command leading down from the JOC to senior officers responsible for individual regions, and the local politicians and so-called "war veterans" and Zanu (PF) youth militias who carry out much of the violence as a proxy military force.
The report said that the scale of the attacks exceeds anything seen previously during Zimbabwe's long history of electoral violence.
The Times reported that for the first time militias are being armed with weapons such as AK47s, handguns and rifles. They have also used military transportation and even attacked from military bases.
Witnesses interviewed by HRW identified numerous senior security officers who report directly to the JOC as being involved personally in the violence, suggesting that they are carrying out orders from above.
Police involved in the attack on American and British diplomats last week were quoted as saying that their orders came "directly from the top".
The use of the "war veterans" and youth militias as proxy forces was intended to cover up the State's role in the violence, the report said.