Back to Index
the international norms and standards on the role of lawyers
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
September 05, 2013
for Human Rights (ZLHR) wishes to restate the critical role of lawyers
in advancing the Rule of Law. As previously set out in recent petitions
issued to commemorate International Human Rights Day, on 10 December
2009 and 6 December 2012 respectively, lawyers in their capacity
as officers of the court are indispensable to proper and effective
ZLHR has observed
with great concern that lawyers continue to be an endangered species
in Zimbabwe. We are cognizant of the fact that the respect, promotion
and protection of the rights of legal practitioners, both in the
private sector and those within the public service in Zimbabwe,
are prerequisites to safeguard the independence of the legal profession
as well as the judiciary, and in turn to enable the efficient and
effective administration of justice. Where a lawyer is targeted
without just cause and/or due process, this has a chilling effect
on other lawyers who will censor themselves and not deliver justice
for their clients and the greater national cause.
Over the years,
the protection of lawyers in the execution of their professional
duties has been expanded nationally, regionally and internationally.
of Zimbabwe in sections 70(1)(d), 69(4), 50(b)(i) and (ii) of
the Declaration of Rights, guarantees the rights to legal representation
of one’s choice in criminal and civil matters as part of ensuring
the fundamental right to protection of the law.
Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (to which Zimbabwe
is a State Party), and the African Union Principles and Guidelines
on the Right to Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa both reaffirm
these rights. These Principles and Guidelines further stipulate
that every accused person has the right to an effective defence
and representation, and that the independence of lawyers shall be
the state is obliged to ensure that lawyers:
- are able
to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation,
hindrance, harassment or improper interference;
- are able
to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within
their own country and abroad; and
- shall not
suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative,
economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance
with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
“shall enjoy civil and penal immunity for relevant statements
made in good faith in written or oral pleadings or in their professional
appearances before a judicial body or other legal or administrative
authority”, and “shall not be identified with their
clients or their clients’ cause as a result of discharging
their functions”. Where the security of lawyers is threatened
as a result of discharging their functions, the authorities shall
adequately safeguard them.
have been laid out in various United Nations (UN) instruments binding
Zimbabwe, and are expanded particularly in the UN Basic Principles
on the Role of Lawyers, of which the State is well aware as a member
of the UN.
light, ZLHR recommends the following action by stakeholders:
To promote mutual
understanding and respect within the legal profession, and to enhance
justice delivery, there is a need to increase substantive engagement
between lawyers in the private and public sectors and members of
the judiciary at all levels as, without a common understanding that
a strong, independent and fearless profession is a pre-requisite
for an independent and effective judiciary, public confidence in
both sectors - and the administration of justice - comes increasingly
under threat and is eroded.
Both the Executive
and Parliament must prioritise, as part of the national legislative
agenda, the expeditious and proactive domestication of all ratified
treaties, statutes and instruments guaranteeing the independence
of the legal profession, and continue to monitor effective implementation
Steps must also
be taken to ensure that adequate legal provisions exist or are included
in national legislation to protect the independence of legal practitioners
and allow them to carry out their professional duties without hindrance.
Further, such provisions must be implemented and respected by all
state and non-state actors.
and/or other appropriate authorities must, without fear or favour,
take swift and effective measures to ensure the prosecution or disciplining
(in the case of authorities without powers of prosecution) of all
offenders who carry out unwarranted attacks on members of the legal
profession, so as to discourage this practice and the growing culture
Society of Zimbabwe must not only continue to monitor and ensure
the fair and impartial implementation of proper conduct by the legal
profession, but also more critically ensure that it protects its
members and ensures safeguards are in place and are respected to
maintain a strong and independent legal profession.
To create an
enabling environment for the legal profession as well as the other
stakeholders in justice delivery, the Judicial Service Commission
must monitor and ensure compliance with the values, standards and
practices set out in the Judicial
Service (Code of Ethics) Regulations of 2012. This will maintain
public confidence in an independent and effective judiciary that
adheres to the highest standards of integrity and delivers justice
to all, without fear or favour.
reiterates that, whilst members of the legal profession are not
above the law, any action taken against them must respect and safeguard
their constitutional rights and regional norms and standards, and
must only be taken in accordance with the principles of natural
justice and after due process has been afforded them. Where this
is not done, justice delivery will be the ultimate loser and confidence
in the authorities - not only by the legal profession, but also
by society at large - will be adversely affected.
Visit the ZLHR
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.