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Attacks on judiciary continue as former high court judge arrested
Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
Today the ICJ wrote
to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to express deep concern over the arrest
of former High Court Judge Fergus Blackie. His detention constitutes the
latest in a series of attacks by the Government of Zimbabwe against the
independent judiciary. It marks a further and serious erosion of the rule
of law in Zimbabwe.
Justice Blackie was
arrested on 13 September 2002 on accusations of "defeating or obstructing
the course of justice". The charges against Justice Blackie were said
to arise from his decision to overturn a fraud conviction in a criminal
case without having consulted a judicial colleague who had heard the case
The context and circumstances
of the arrest strongly point to a political motive in the government’s
Earlier this year,
Justice Blackie came under severe criticism from Government officials
for imposing a three-month prison sentence for contempt of court on Justice
Minister Patrick Chinamasa - subsequently overturned- because the Minister
had failed to appear in court to respond to charges relating to his criticism
of the High Court.
Justice Blackie was
arrested, rather than presented with summons, as would be the usual procedure;
the arrest took place at 4:00 am on a Friday, when it would be difficult
to contact lawyers and the outside world; the authorities initially denied
knowledge of his whereabouts; and he was allegedly denied food, medication
and access to lawyers and family members during his first day in detention.
The ICJ fears that
the actions taken against Justice Blackie will dissuade other judges from
exercising independence when their decisions might run contrary to Government
policy. It has urged Government officials to respect the independence
of the judiciary and cease such harassment.
In 2001 the authorities
forced the resignation of Supreme Court Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay following
rulings that had gone against the Government. Since then, a number of
senior judges have left the bench, often following political pressure.
The ICJ will continue
to monitor the situation.
For further information,
please contact: Ian Seiderman, tel. 41-22-979-3823
Commission of Jurists
P.O Box 216
- 81A, avenue de Chatelaine CH - 1219 Chatelaine/Geneva, Switzerland
Tel : +41(0)22
979 38 00 Fax : +41(0)22 979 38 01
website : http://www.icj.org
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