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

  • Release lawyers immediately says IBA
    International Bar Association (IBA)
    May 08, 2007

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    Zimbabwean human rights lawyers Andrew Makoni and Alex Muchadehama must be immediately released, said the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association's (IBA).

    Mr Muchadehama and Mr Makoni, well known for their effective representation of political activists facing highly politicised criminal charges, were arrested in Harare, on Friday 4 April.

    Since their arrest, the High Court of Zimbabwe has declared their arrest and detention unlawful and ordered police to release them. This habeas corpus writ was ignored, as was a subsequent court order, issued on 6 April, requiring police to render the detainees to the High Court.

    The arrest was followed on Sunday by a search of the lawyers' offices, where police examined and seized documents protected by the attorney-client privilege. Lawyers from the organization Zimbabwe Lawyers to Human Right who attempted to prevent the seizure of privileged documents were physically threatened by the police offers at the scene and warned that they 'would be next'.

    "The arrest and detention of Mr Makoni and Mr Muchadehama is another example of the precarious situation in which human rights lawyers work in Zimbabwe," said Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association. "We are witnessing an extremely worrying turn in the rule of law situation in Zimbabwe. Mugabe's government has escalated attacks on political dissenters in recent weeks and no effective international action is being taken to stop the flagrant violation of international law in that country. Lawyers who denounce these attacks on fundamental freedoms and defend victims are now targets", added Mr Ellis.

    The International Bar Association called for the release of the lawyers and drew the Zimbabwean government's attention to international standards, in particular, the provisions of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which provide that Governments must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance or harassment.

    It urged the Zimbabwean authorities to respect their international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter for Human and Peoples Rights, in particular provisions which guarantees the right to liberty, security and the protection of the law and called on Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) leaders to act.

    'The International Bar Association calls on SADC leaders to demonstrate resolve in their efforts to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis by making clear to Mugabe that the crackdown must stop.' Mr Ellis added.

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