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ZLHR honours courageous human rights lawyers
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

December 11, 2012

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on Monday 10 December 2012 presented its 2012 Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award to two human rights lawyers, Raymond Moyo and Charles Kwaramba, who have devoted much time, energy, resources, passion and years to the human rights struggle during the year. Below is the citation and profiles of the courageous lawyers.

The 2012 Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award

The environment within which lawyers operated in 2012 remained challenging as legal practitioners - the last line of defence - continued to encounter threats, harassment and intimidation despite state obligations and responsibilities that enforce adequate protection to members of the legal fraternity in the exercise of their professional functions.

Although it is extremely important for lawyers to operate in an independent and free environment to ensure that the justice delivery process remains credible, continued attacks impacted negatively on the rights of lawyers' clients, including access to legal representatives of their choice.

Lawyers continued to be denied access to their clients while they were also subjected to verbal attacks at police stations, in their practices, through the state-controlled media and in the courtroom.

But despite the multifarious methods of repression that have continued to litter the operating environment for lawyers and other Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe, ZLHR once again finds it pertinent to acknowledge its dedicated member lawyers who in 2012 worked tirelessly towards fostering a culture of human rights, democracy and sustainable peace in Zimbabwe. In 2012 and despite the dangerous minefield they paced, courageous lawyers employed various strategies including litigating, challenging, protesting and publicly condemning human rights violations by State and non-State actors in spite of countless threats on their lives and their families, contributing to human rights awareness and community capacity-building, amongst other activities. In 2012, the lawyers whom I will shortly announce were nominated for exhibiting the epitome of contributing to the struggle for democracy, peace, protection and promotion of human rights and observance of the Just Rule of Law in our country.

Citation of Nominees & Special Mention

This lawyer was described as a shining beacon of human rights lawyering in one of the country's most dangerous areas to practice human rights law and criminal defence. The human rights lawyer often paid a heavy price for his work, being abducted for approximately one week by some non-State actors and being hauled before the courts to face charges of insulting President Robert Mugabe. In spite of such circumstances, he continues to represent victims on human rights in a manner which makes him the unsung hero of all the Mashonaland provinces. The first ZLHR member lawyer to get a special mention is Ernest Jena of Jena & Associates Legal Practitioners in Bindura.

This lawyer has been on the frontline in defending human rights. The lawyer from the Midlands province, who reacts to needy HRD's in remote areas such as Gokwe, faces a daily peril which lawyers in the major centres such as Harare and Bulawayo do not face in the same proximate hubristic and brazen fashion. The second ZLHR member lawyer to get a special mention is Reginald Chidawanyika of Chitere, Chidawanyika and Partners Legal Practitioners in Gweru.

Human Rights Lawyer of the Year 2012

The joint winners of the 2012 Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award are two legal practitioners who have devoted much time, energy, resources, passion and years to the human rights struggle.

They have sacrificed countless hours, energy, resources and commitment to the cause of their clients.

The first joint winner laboured for five years representing his clients' right to freedom of worship and assembly and quite recently, he won a much-publicised and welcomed Supreme Court order which ended the unprecedented assault on religious freedom among Anglican parishioners in Zimbabwe. His patience during the five-year battle and his persistence embody the true meaning of a humble lawyer. Even as we gather tonight, the joint winner, this afternoon scored yet another victory for his tormented clients after Judge President Justice George Chiweshe dismissed an appeal filed in the High Court by Nolbert Kunonga, the ex-communicated and renegade church leader. His name is Raymond Moyo, a ZLHR member and partner with Gill, Godlonton & Gerrans legal practitioners.

The other joint winner was described by the nominating party as "young, patient and resilient". He continues to handle the most head-cracking, highly publicised and emotionally draining case involving 29 Glenview residents, who have been charged with murder. Despite being subjected to reprimand by judges through a forum to which he has been denied his right of reply, he has been in court almost on a daily basis to secure his client's interests and lately such resolute pursuit resulted in the admission to bail of three of some of his clients. The job is not yet done as the legal processes continue and he still has to manoeuvre some disciplinary procedures but we are sure that with his diligence he will win the final battle for his clients. The second joint winner is ZLHR member Charles Kwaramba of Mbidzo, Muchadehama & Makoni legal practitioners.

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