Back to Index
and threats against lawyers condemned by the IBA
International Bar Association (IBA)
March 21, 2007
The International Bar Association (IBA)’s
Human Rights Institute today condemned the recent violence and threats
made against Zimbabwean lawyers by police and other officials.
On 20 March, Ms Beatrice Mtetwa, a prominent
human rights lawyer, and her assistant were violently manhandled
and threatened by police officers whilst serving them court papers.
Ms Mtetwa has represented many people who have been arrested for
attempting to exercise their fundamental human rights to free association,
assembly and expression.
This incident is the latest in a series
of disturbing reports of threats against lawyers involved in representing
those involved in the 7 March prayer meeting in Highfield. As the
IBA reported last week, many of those involved in the meeting were
arrested and brutally attacked by police in detention.
Other reports include the following:
- On 19 March, lawyer Mr Harrison Nkomo
was threatened with arrest by Assistant Commissioner Mabunda when
he tried to serve court processes and notices.
- On 18 March, Mr Andrew Makoni, was
reportedly threatened with ‘disappearance’ at the Harare police
station whilst attempting to serve a High Court order on the Assistant
- On 17 March, lawyer Mr Tafadzwa Mugabe
was threatened with assault and arrest when trying to assert his
clients’ rights to leave the country to access medical treatment
in South Africa. His clients were among those brutally attacked
by police following the 7 March prayer meeting. He was also told
to stop representing those clients.
- Also on 17 March 2007, lawyer Mar Dzimbabwe
Chimbga, was threatened by officials at the airport when returning
to Harare, and was told to stop taking up cases involving opposition
- On 11 March 2007, Mr Harrison Nkomo
was assaulted with a baton by officers at Machipisa Police Station
after inquiring about the whereabouts of the opposition leaders
arrested following the prayer meeting on 7 March.
The IBA is extremely anxious about the
safety of lawyers in Zimbabwe, particularly those involved in representing
opposition members. The intimidation of lawyers in this manner breaches
Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples'
Rights, which guarantee the right to legal counsel of one’s choosing.
Zimbabwe is a party to both these instruments.
The IBA would also like to draw attention
to the provisions of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers,
which guarantee the right of all persons to be assisted by a lawyer
to protect their rights and to defend them in all stages of criminal
proceedings. The Basic Principles also provide that Governments
must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional
functions without intimidation, hindrance or harassment. Further,
Governments are obliged to ensure that lawyers shall not suffer
or be threatened with sanctions for any action as part of their
professional duties. In situations where the security of lawyers
is threatened as a result of discharging their duties, they must
be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.
It is evident that the Government of
Zimbabwe is not protecting but violating the rights of its lawyers
in violation of the Basic Principles. The IBA calls on the Government
of Zimbabwe to take immediate steps to ensure that these rights
are protected and that lawyers are able to perform their role without
fear of violence or intimidation.
‘The recent threats made to lawyers place
the rule of law in Zimbabwe in even greater peril’, Mark Ellis,
Executive Director of the International Bar Association stated.
‘The international community must increase pressure on the Mugabe
Government to end this series of unprecedented attacks on basic
‘This disregard for international human
rights obligations and the rule of law is of serious concern, stated
Justice Richard Goldstone, Co-Chair of the HRI. ‘I call on the Mugabe
Government to ensure strict observance of its own laws and international
Visit the CHRA
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.