"For Zimbabwe to lead any UN body is preposterous," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organisation.The piece is more notable, however, for this new 'detail' it supplies about the downward spiral of that unhappy country:
The Sunday Times has learnt that hundreds of prisoners are dying of starvation in Zimbabwe jails because the authorities have no money to feed them. Convicts released last week from Chikurubi jail, after serving sentences of five to seven years, reported prisoners dying every day. The numbers are so high that the prison has been forced to open its own mortuary.
Prisoners are given just one meal a day, consisting of a few cabbage leaves, occasionally served with sadza (corn meal). The lack of nutrition has fuelled widespread tuberculosis and an outbreak of pellagra, a disease related to food deficiency from which many have died.
One prisoner who spent five years inside for armed robbery said he went to jail with two accomplices. He emerged alone. "I saw two of my friends wasting away as a result of disease," he said. "I saw them dying one night and knocked and knocked on the prison door in order to alert the guards. They only arrived at 9am the following day when it was too late."
Prison officers have told inmates that nothing can be done because they themselves are struggling to feed their families. Aside from food the prison service has no medicines, just like Zimbabwe's hospitals.
Chikurubi prison also goes for weeks at a time without water for washing. Prisoners often go three weeks without bathing, yet they stay in crowded cells, often with 18 or 20 men sharing one small hole as a latrine. "We used to get washing soap regularly, now it's just a small piece in a blue moon," said one of the men.
This particularly affects female prisoners, some of whom have babies. They have no sanitary wear and their babies do not receive any supplementary food. Prisoners no longer get any new clothes; when their old ones fall apart, they have to wrap themselves in blankets.
A spokesman for the Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender said prisoners were "living like animals".
"Human rights abuses include overcrowding, unhygienic conditions, lack of clothing, medical care, food and balanced diet, spread of infectious diseases, high levels of mental illness and deaths are widespread," he said.