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Statement on the Year 2001, to mark Human Rights Day (Dec 10)
Zimbawe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
December 07, 2001

In all democracies world wide, the rule of law is not only a jealously guarded concept but also a way of life. Rule of law refers to governance according to just laws, set and established by a duly constituted Legislature.

In a well-orchestrated effort to quell opposition parties and dissenting views, the government has succeeded in eroding the rule of law to the point of non-existence. Rule of law is only guaranteed if the Judiciary and Parliament remain independent and the Executive impartially executes and upholds the laws of the country.

This year alone, the Chief Justice and three other Judges resigned, under physical and political threats. Notwithstanding his obligation to protect the Judiciary, the Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mr P Chinamasa, was instrumental in procuring the Chief Justice’s resignation as well as making racial vitriol.

The Supreme Court has been reconstituted, amidst rife speculation of a Judiciary compromised in favour of the establishment.

ZLHR condemns the government actions which compromise the Judiciary. An unfair and partisan Judiciary breeds lawlessness and anarchy, as citizens resort to self-help in order to resolve disputes.

By-elections and local government elections held in 2001 mirrored the June 2000 Parliamentary elections in the levels of senseless violence. More and more people have been subjected to assaults, torture, rape, malicious injury to property, as well as being displaced. The Presidential pardon condoned, if not encouraged, violence and mob rule in all future elections.

To carry out its policies the government has used persons who claim to be war veterans. Farms and companies were invaded; persons killed, maimed, tortured and displaced. The police have failed to take appropriate action in many instances against "war veterans" claiming that these are "political" issues.

Under its National Youth Service programme, the government appears to be training more para-military groups to brutalize a nation already under siege. Access to the public media remains a preserve of the ruling party and hangers on. The holding of alternative views and information is hazardous. All persons who had different views and opinions to those of the government have been branded terrorists.

Blatantly unconstitutional laws, such as the Broadcasting Services Act, have been passed into law, which in practical terms prevent any investment into the sector. A Public Order and Security Bill is being introduced. This Bill is meant to replace the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act, which, according to government media reports, has been watered down by the Supreme court, which has struck down the Act’s various sections on the basis that they are unconstitutional. Notwithstanding the Supreme courts rejection of the formerly mandatory requirement for citizens to carry National Identity documents, the government seeks to reintroduce the law. New electoral amendments, which seek to prevent Zimbabweans from voting, are being mooted.

It is not by chance that there is increased violence, breakdown of law and order.

Freedom of expression and association, i.e. the freedom to choose, is a foundation of democracy. The activities of government violate these rights. More and more journalists have been arrested or deported. Save for war veterans, nobody else may demonstrate. The hallmark of dictatorship is intolerance. Seemingly in order to achieve short-term political goals the President, a liberator in 1980, has turned oppressor to all who show opposition.

We call upon all citizens to call for an end of violence. There must be impartial enforcement of the law, free and fair elections and a mandatory return to the rule of law. Many of our fellow countrymen perished in the fight for equality, justice, peace and integrity. These are ideals we must cherish. Political and economic stability and prosperity depend on set principles of law and the idea that no one man is greater than the country.

Finally, as we have said countless times, the legal profession must also be in the forefront of the campaign for democracy and the rule of law. Unbridled anarchy and dictatorship renders lawyers, Judges and the legal system irrelevant.

ZLHR members will be commemorating International Human Rights Day by holding a lunch-time march through Harare City centre on Monday 10 December 2001.

Visit the ZLHR fact sheet

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