THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

This article participates on the following special index pages:

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

  • State attack on legal practitioners continues
    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
    May 08, 2007

    Visit the special index page on the mistreatment of the legal profession in Zimbabwe

    Members of the Law Society of Zimbabwe were today subjected to the full brutality of the state when they attempted to gather for a peaceful solidarity protest outside the High Court of Zimbabwe in Harare.

    Lawyers were due to present a petition to the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of police urging full and immediate protection of lawyers and prosecutors in the execution of their professional duties.

    This comes in the wake of harassment, threats and assaults on human rights lawyers at the hands of the police, and which culminated in the arrest and detention of senior legal practitioners Alec Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni on Friday 4 May 2007 during the course of their business on charges of obstructing the course of justice.

    Around 60 lawyers had gathered outside the High Court, when they were ordered by Chief Superintendent Tenderere to disperse before the count of three, failing which his officers had instructions to beat lawyers. As lawyers began to disperse, riot police, uniformed officers and plain-clothes individuals' wielding baton sticks began to threaten the lawyers, verbally abuse them, and prod them with their baton sticks.

    Led by the President of the Law Society, Mrs Beatrice Mtetwa and two other Councillors of the Law Society, Collin Kuhuni and Chris Mhike, a number of lawyers dispersed in the direction of the Attorney General's Office, walking on the pavement. Without provocation or warning, police began assaulting lawyers with baton sticks, because they "were not dispersing fast enough". Senior lawyer Mordecai Mahlangu and Acting Director of Zimbabwe lawyers for Human Rights, Irene Petras, were amongst those subject to such assaults.

    When Messrs Mtetwa, Kuhuni, Mhike and Fitzpatrick ran into the Attorney General's office to seek protection from the ruthless police, they were chased by riot police, and found other officers already waiting for them inside the building. The four were loaded into a police truck and driven to Eastlea, where they were offloaded and severely beaten with baton sticks in full view of the public. Police then abruptly abandoned them on the side of the road.

    ZLHR strongly condemns the brutal actions of the police and views these assaults as proof positive that the integrity and independence of the legal profession remains at critical risk.

    Threats, intimidation, verbal and physical attacks on lawyers who are carrying out their professional duties and attempting to speak our for the protection of the law for their own colleagues, are a clear sign of the state's outright disregard for constitutional protections and regional and international human rights standards which oblige the state to ensure that lawyers and prosecutors are able to carry out their duties without fear or favour and enjoy the same freedoms of expression and assembly as other people of Zimbabwe. Such actions also serve as blatant attempts to bar lawyers from representing human rights defenders who remain at serious risk of violations by the state and its agents.

    It is clear that Zimbabwe has become a police state, with those whose duty it is to protect and serve the people of Zimbabwe turning on them with increasing viciousness and impunity. The silence of the Minister of Justice, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs, as well as the Attorney General of Zimbabwe is deafening and they need to act immediately if the rule of law is to be restored in the country.

    Visit the ZLHR fact sheet

    Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.