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administration of justice in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
January 16, 2007
for Human Rights (ZLHR) wishes to add its voice to those who have
spoken out recently on the dire straits in which the Judiciary,
and therefore the administration of justice, finds itself.
opening of the 2007 Legal Year was marked by speeches from the Judge President, Mrs. Justice Rita Makarau, in Harare and Mr.
Justice Maphios Cheda in Bulawayo. The two judges, particularly
Justice Makarau, brought attention to invidious poisons which are
negatively affecting the administration of justice in the country,
namely insufficient resources and corruption within the judicial
The Judges pointed
out that personnel within the judicial system are poorly remunerated,
promoting rampant corruption. She was concerned that the court is
failing to effectively and expediently carry out its duties because
of the adverse shortage of stationery and computers, and the poor
equipping of the libraries. Such impoverishment led to the courts
failing to hold a circuit in Masvingo in 2006, meaning that awaiting-trial
detainees continue to remain incarcerated for unduly long periods
whilst they wait for justice. The Judge President noted that the
conditions of the police cells and remand prisons continue to amount
to inhuman and degrading treatment.
of the judiciary is one of the cornerstones of any democratic society
and is protected in various international agreements including the
United Nations (UN) Basic Principles of the Independence of the
Judiciary as well as in section 79B of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
This principle is necessary to curtail arbitrariness and ensure
that the law is applied fairly and equally, so that there is access
to justice for all. Independence of the judiciary entails both institutional
independence and the individual independence of judicial officers.
When a judiciary is underfinanced and understaffed, the institutional
independence of the judiciary is grossly undermined; where the resourcing
of the judiciary is subject to the control of a central authority,
the quality of justice dispensed is seriously compromised and it
is the general populace which suffers. As the Judge President stated:
'It is wrong by any measure to make the judiciary beg for
sustenance. It is wrong to make the judiciary beg for resources
from central government.'
Courts are failing
to deal with the backlog of cases, especially criminal cases, especially
in outlying and more remote areas. The populace is therefore failing
to access justice. This inevitably breeds loss of confidence in
the justice delivery system. The failure of justice administration
in the country gives rise to impunity, anarchy (with people taking
the law into their own hands) and a gateway to continued violations
of human rights and the breakdown of the rule of law.
wishes to add its voice to the calls for due attention to be paid
to the needs of the judicial sector, and the related arms of law
enforcement. In this respect, we call upon the government of Zimbabwe
- Review constantly
the conditions of service of judicial officers in Zimbabwe in
light of rampant inflation and guard against a situation where
they have to beg central government for their sustenance as this
is violent disregard of Section 79B of the Constitution
- Show commitment
to the United Nations (UN) Basic principles of the independence
of the judiciary (endorsed by General Assembly resolutions 40/32
of 29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13 December 1985) which state
that it is the duty of each Member State to provide adequate resources
to enable the judiciary to properly perform its functions.
- Ensure that
they adhere to and show reverence to the rule of law and international
norms and values especially the African Charter on Human and Peoples'
Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
which, properly understood, enshrine judicial rights and the independence
of the judiciary as a matter of law, not just principle.
- Ensure that
witness expenses are constantly reviewed in light of rampant inflation.
detention conditions at Matapi Police Station, Highlands Police
station and all other places of detention in Zimbabwe, especially
in light of the undue delays experienced before matters are brought
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