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  • Index of articles on the mistreatment of the legal profession in Zimbabwe

  • Arrests of Makoni and Muchadehama
    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
    May 05, 2007

    On 4 May 2007 at around 16h30, Andrew Makoni and Alec Muchadehama, two prominent lawyers and members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) were arrested outside the High Court during the course of their business. They were taken to the Law and Order section at Harare Central police station "for interrogation" but were not provided with reasons for their arrest.

    Lawyers attending at the Law and Order section were able to confirm the presence of the two lawyers but were chased out of the offices by Detective Inspector Rangwani, who also threatened to physically assault Dzimbabwe Chimbga, a project lawyer with ZLHR. Rangwani, together with four unidentified police details also threatened all lawyers present with arrest if they persisted with seeking a reason for their clients' detention.

    An urgent application (HC 2346/07) was filed by ZLHR at the High Court of Zimbabwe, and at around 21h30 Justice Tedius Karwi granted a "temporary order" directing the police to allow lawyers access to Makoni and Muchadehama and to allow them access to food, medical attention if necessary, and visitation by their relatives, pending the hearing of the matter the following day.

    Despite this, the police defied the court order and denied access; instead they moved Makoni to Stoddart police station and Muchadehama to Matapi police station. Matapi has been found by the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe as a place of detention which is inhuman and degrading, violating the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

    On the morning of 5 May 2007, lawyers were again denied access to the two and their families were not allowed to provide them with food, being told to "return at 12h00". The court reconvened at 12h30 before Justice Karwi, where Mr. Richard Chikosha (representing the Respondents) agreed with Applicant's counsel, Advocate Eric Matinenga, that the arrests were unlawful and that Makoni and Muchadehama should be immediately released. Justice Karwi granted this consent order.

    Lawyers from ZLHR served the order on all Respondents and travelled to Matapi police station, where they were informed that Mr. Muchadehama had been taken back to the Law and Order section at Harare Central for further interrogation by one MARUFU. Lawyers proceeded to Stoddart police station, where they confirmed the presence of Mr. Makoni, but were advised that the Officer in Charge was not available and therefore he could not be released. Again, this is a clear contravention of a court order.

    Efforts are continuing to locate Mr. Muchadehama and ensure the release of both lawyers from unlawful custody.

    ZLHR strongly condemns the unlawful actions of the police in this matter. Senior police officers at several stations, as well as the entire Law and Order section, continue to remain a law unto themselves, and impunity for their actions is further entrenched as each day passes. Arresting lawyers - who are professionals and officers of the court - whilst they are attempting to carry out their lawful duties and ensure the constitutional right to legal representation for countless repressed human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, is a cowardly and evil act calculated to harass and intimidate an independent legal profession. Further, the continued contempt of court orders by the police has become an everyday phenomenon and no person is safe from those who are constitutionally obliged to protect the people of Zimbabwe. Such actions cannot be tolerated or condoned in a democratic society.

    We call upon all concerned citizens and organizations to vociferously:

    • Condemn the actions of the police;
    • Demand from the Commissioner of Police, the Minister of Home Affairs and all police officers, an end to the ruthless repression of human rights defenders, and defenders of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, and compliance with orders of the courts of Zimbabwe;
    • Register their condemnation and concern with the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, the Judge President of the High Court, and the Minister of Justice, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs; and
    • Pressure the judiciary to protect officers of their courts and ensure that they can carry out their professional duties without victimisation.
    Irene Petras
    Acting Executive Director
    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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