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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights (ZLHR)
October 28, 2005
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.
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
- The African
Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides in Article 7
that ‘Every individual shall have the right to have his cause
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.
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