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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Index of articles on the mistreatment of the legal profession in Zimbabwe
following the arrest of two lawyers
Resources Foundation (LRF)
May 11, 2007
the special index page on the mistreatment of the legal profession
The Trustees of the Legal
Resources Foundation are deeply concerned by the arrest on Friday
4 May of two lawyers in Harare who had gone to the High Court in
pursuance of their clients' cases. Our deep concern stems
from the following:
In terms of section 8 of the Legal Practitioners Act [Chapter 27:07]
legal practitioners are entitled to represent their clients without
fear of harassment from law enforcement agents. Whilst section 13
of the Constitution of Zimbabwe allows the police to effect an arrest
upon reasonable suspicion that one has committed or is about to
commit an offence, it is impossible to see how the two lawyers could
have been reasonably suspected of committing an offence when they
were merely representing their clients. There is no way the Police
could be said to have been acting lawfully or in good faith.
of access to a legal representative
Section 13(3) of the Constitution states that once a person has
been arrested and detained they shall be permitted, without delay,
to obtain and instruct a legal representative of their choice and
communicate with him/her. By denying the two arrested lawyers access
to their legal representatives the Police were acting in direct
contravention of the Constitution.
Disregard of court orders
In an effort to secure the release of the two lawyers, two applications
for their release were granted by the High Court. The detention
was declared unlawful and the Police were ordered to release the
two lawyers. The orders were served on the Police, on 5 May and
the second on 6 May. These orders were ignored and the lawyers remained
in detention until 7 May. This shows the police's deplorable
disregard for the Judiciary and thus for the rule of law.
This reprehensible and unlawful conduct by the Police resulted in
the lawyers spending three nights in detention. They were finally
taken to court on Monday 7 May, charged with "obstructing
the course of justice", a patently spurious charge. They have
since been placed on remand and granted bail of $500 000, despite
the High Court orders for their release. It is shocking that the
magistrates' court found the facts as presented by the police
justification for putting the lawyers on remand.
Arrest of state counsel
To compound this sad turn of events, the state counsel who consented
to the granting of the High Court order on 5 May was arrested and
allegedly assaulted by the Police. He went through this harrowing
experience lawfully performing his duties. If this is not a breakdown
of the rule of law, we do not know what is. The impunity with which
the Police have continued to behave in this and similar previous
incidents involving civic society leaders has frightening implications.
Both the state counsel and the Judges who granted the court orders
have been humiliated. A Judiciary which is insulted in this way
can no longer guarantee the rights of the people.
Police attack on lawyers
In a show of solidarity with their counterparts, the Law Society
of Zimbabwe called a protest march on Tuesday 8 May. The march was
to culminate in the handing over of a petition to the Minister of
Justice. Lawyers gathering at the High Court were met with a hostile
reception by Police, riot police and army personnel. A senior police
officer proceeded to declare the gathering unlawful and ordered
the lawyers to disperse but before they had time to do so the lawyers
were attacked with batons and at least six were severely beaten.
The Trustees of the Legal
Resources Foundation unreservedly condemn such high handedness on
the part of the Police. In a country where the rule of law applies,
the Police, and any other Government agency will obey court orders
without question. Where court orders are ignored or disobeyed with
impunity, then there can be no doubt that the rule of law has been
abandoned. Is this the image of Zimbabwe that the Government wants
to portray to the rest of the world or are rogue elements of the
Police acting on their own?
It is deeply regrettable
that the Minister of Justice, the Chief Justice, the Judge-President
and the Attorney-General have remained silent in the face of this
invidious assault on the rule of law. Their silence states loudly
that our Justice system can no longer deliver and that no one in
Zimbabwe is guaranteed the protection of the law.
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