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  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles

  • Forced evictions removals
    Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights (ZLHR)
    October 28, 2005

    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is concerned at the manner in which the Provincial Magistrates (Civil) Court Harare has chosen to compromise access to justice for the poor and disadvantaged communities in society that have unfortunately suffered forced evictions and threats of forced evictions as well as related violations of their fundamental human rights during the ongoing "clean-up" operation.

    Following on the Mbare case (reported by us earlier) which the Harare Magistrates’ Civil Court declined to hear on the convenient but erroneous basis that they had no jurisdiction, the Magistrates Court on Friday 14 October 2005 yet again refused to hear another case involving the threatened eviction of Mabelreign vendors. No reason at law has been given for the failure to exercise jurisdiction by the Magistrate Court except that the Court is not prepared to handle complaints against City of Harare relating to forced evictions. The fact that the Magistrates Court Harare has declared itself unable to hear forced evictions cases against City of Harare seriously undermines and violates the universally accepted principle of equality before the law, as well as access to the courts for an effective remedy.

    ZLHR is therefore gravely concerned by this constant undermining of the constitutionally guaranteed right to access justice. Section 18 of the Zimbabwe Constitution guarantees to every person the protection of the law and entitles all people to a fair hearing before an independent and impartial court. It is of grave concern to ZLHR that a court can merely declare that its jurisdiction over particular matters or particulars parties has been taken away through an administrative action or direction. The ouster of the courts’ jurisdiction through administratively proscribing certain persons from coming to the courts to seek the protection against violations of their rights violates the principle of separation of powers and negates the rule of law and exposes society to unchecked Executive excesses.

    The right to an effective remedy and to protection of the law is guaranteed in a number of international instruments binding on Zimbabwe.

    • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides in Article 8 that ‘everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted to him by the Constitution or by law.’
    • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides in Article 17 for the right to the protection of the law against attacks to a person’s privacy, family, home, correspondence, honour or reputation.
    • The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides in Article 7 that ‘Every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard.’

    Denial of protection of the law and access to justice exposes society to potential further violations of other rights. As for the Mabelreign vendors’ case, denial of access to justice resulted in the Applicants being forcibly evicted and their right to livelihood (a critical component of their right to life) being fatally violated. Access to justice is therefore central to respect for, promotion and protection of human rights to give practical realisation of rights and develop a culture of respect for human rights in society at large.

    We call upon the Chief Magistrate to urgently investigate the actions taken by the Magistrates’ Civil Court Harare as they impact negatively on the administration of justice and are likely to expose individuals to serious violations of their fundamental rights. Judicial officers must be seen to be protecting their independence, exercising their mandate without fear or favour, and demanding adherence to the principle of separation of powers. We also call upon the Executive to reaffirm its commitment to non-interference with the functions of the Courts as a means of addressing the culture of impunity which exists for perpetrators of human rights violations.

    Visit the ZLHR fact sheet

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