UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, accused U.S. President George W. Bush of “rank hypocrisy” on Wednesday for lecturing him on human rights and likened the U.S. Guantanamo Bay prison to a concentration camp.
“His hands drip with innocent blood of many nationalities,” Mugabe said in a typically fiery speech to the U.N. General Assembly. “He kills in Iraq. He kills in Afghanistan. And this is supposed to be our master on human rights?”
Mugabe, 83, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, was speaking the day after Bush scolded the governments of Belarus, Syria, Iran and North Korea as “brutal regimes” in his speech to the General Assembly.
Bush criticized the Zimbabwe government headed by Mugabe as “tyrannical” and an “assault on its people.”
Critics accuse Mugabe of plunging Zimbabwe’s once-thriving economy into an abyss of widespread food shortages and hyperinflation. Mugabe accuses Western countries of sabotaging the economy as punishment for his seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.
“What rank hypocrisy,” Mugabe said of Bush’s speech.
He said Bush imprisoned and tortured people in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at Guantanamo, the U.S. military prison in Cuba where al Qaeda suspects are held.
“At that concentration camp, international law does not apply,” said Mugabe, a former Marxist guerrilla who fought for independence from Britain.
“America is primarily responsible for rewriting core tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he said. “We seem all guilty for 9/11.”
Bush has come under international criticism for holding suspects without trial at Guantanamo and for interrogation techniques that human rights groups say amount to torture. Bush denies the United States tortures.
Mugabe said Bush and his ally, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, “rode roughshod” over the United Nations when they went to war in Iraq, yet now Bush was asking the world body to expand its role in Iraq.
“Almighty Bush is now coming back to the U.N. for a rescue package because his nose is bloodied. Yet he dares to lecture us on tyranny,” Mugabe said.
He accused Britain and the United States of a campaign to destabilize and vilify Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is grappling with the world’s highest inflation rate of more than 6,600 percent, shortages of foreign exchange, fuel and food and rocketing unemployment that has left many people unable to buy even basic foodstuffs.
South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu told Reuters on Tuesday he was “devastated” by the human rights abuses of Mugabe’s government and he struggled to understand how Mugabe had changed so drastically after steering the former British colony to independence.