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marches to present petition against Constitutional Amendment (No.17)
Supreme Court "closed for constitutional business"
Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights (ZLHR)
August 17, 2005
17 August 2005 around 40 lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights (ZLHR) marched through Harare's Central Business District
to the Parliament and Supreme Court of Zimbabwe to present a petition
against the Constitutional Amendment (No.17) Bill to the Speaker
of Parliament and the Chief Justice respectively. The petition was
signed by over 100 lawyers from around the country.
The Acting Officer
Commanding Police for Harare Central District, Superintendent G
Samanyanga, attempted to prevent the march from taking place, but
ZLHR maintained that it had complied with its legal obligations
and was therefore entitled to proceed. ZLHR recommended that the
regulating authorities seek a court interdict if they wished to
stop the march. No further action was taken by the police, although
they maintained a noticeable presence throughout the march and visited
the ZLHR offices after the march to obtain copies of the petition
and informational flyers which were distributed to the general public
along the route.
of Parliament refused to meet the lawyers to accept the petition.
Instead the Chief of Security for Parliament undertook to deliver
it to him. ZLHR had called on Members of Parliament to:
· Reject the imposition of an undemocratic Amendment which
has failed to recognise the need for consultation with themselves
or their constituents
· Initiate a process of wholesale constitutional reform which
takes into account the views of all stakeholders
outside a locked Supreme Court denied the lawyers entry and barred
ZLHR representatives from presenting the petition to the Chief Justice.
Ironically the lawyers are opposing the Amendment Bill in part due
to its encroachment on judicial powers by the Executive and the
dangers the Bill poses to the independence of the judiciary and
the rule of law. ZLHR has petitioned the Judiciary to:
· Take a firm and public position against the affront to
its dignity, constitutional function and the threat to its very
· Insist that basic international norms and standards relating
to the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms be respected
by the Executive and Legislature
· Remind the Executive and Legislature of their obligations
under international law, to give effect to the fundamental rights
and freedoms of the people of Zimbabwe and ensure them of their
entitlements under domestic and international law
ZLHR is disheartened
by the failure of the Speaker of Parliament and the Chief Justice
to personally accept the petition, bearing in mind the overriding
importance of the constitutional debate to society at large. ZLHR
also condemns the actions of the police in denying lawyers entry
to the Supreme Court which, as officers of the court, they are entitled
to as of right.
We call on both
the Speaker of Parliament and the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe to take
the concerns of the legal profession seriously and to address the
issues raised with the solemnity and urgency that they deserve.
Hiding behind closed doors can only be seen as unwillingness to
engage in a debate which is of national importance and a failure
to fulfil their mandate from the nation they purport to serve.
the ZLHR fact
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