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on the arrest and detention of Mr. Eric Matinenga
Commonwealth Lawyers' Association (CLA)
June 11, 2008
Lawyers' Association (CLA) is a pan-Commonwealth professional
association of lawyers that exists to maintain and promote the rule
of law throughout the Commonwealth. The membership includes representatives
from all 53 Commonwealth countries.
The CLA is extremely
concerned about the recent arrest and detention of Mr. Eric Matinenga,
an Advocate of the High Court and former President of the Administrative
Court of Zimbabwe.
Mr. Matinenga was arrested
in Buhera on 31st May 2008 whilst trying to attend to his own clients
who had been arrested, assaulted and detained. The arresting officer
did not appear to have reasonable grounds to suspect him of having
committed an offence and he was not informed of the charges against
him. He was subsequently detained for over 3 days and was only released
on 5th June 2008 following a successful application to the Court
to have his arrest and detention declared unlawful and an order
for his immediate release.
Less than 48 hours later,
on 7th June 2008, Mr. Matinenga was arrested a second time on the
basis of the same allegations that had previously been dismissed
by the Court.
The CLA is disturbed
about reports that the Officer in Charge was obstructive in relation
to the provision of legal representation to the detainee. This is
in violation of Article 18 of the Constitution
of the Republic of Zimbabwe and internationally accepted standards
of treatment of untried prisoners. The CLA is even more concerned
at the refusal by some members of the Police and Officers of the
Attorney-General's Office to comply with an order of the High
Court for the release of Mr. Matinenga. It is fundamental to the
administration of any system of justice that the rule of law is
upheld in all respects. The reported circumstances of Mr. Matinenga's
case underscore widespread concerns that even this most basic of
principles is no longer respected or observed by the Government
of Zimbabwe and its agents.
The CLA condemns the
ongoing harassment and attacks on lawyers by the Government of Zimbabwe.
The CLA calls upon the
Police Commissioner and the Attorney General to comply with the
spirit and the letter of all orders of the Courts and to order the
immediate release Mr. Matinenga.
The CLA renews previous
calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to respect the independence
of the legal profession and the role of lawyers, as required in
the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (adopted
in 1990) and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
(adopted in 1998), and to ensure that lawyers are able to access
their clients without any hindrance and freely discharge their duties
in the interest of effective administration of justice.
The CLA will
continue to provide support and work with the legal profession and
Law Society of Zimbabwe in their efforts to maintain the rule of
law in Zimbabwe.
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