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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

  • Harassment of lawyers must stop, says IBA
    International Bar Association (IBA)
    May 16, 2007

    Visit the special index page on the mistreatment of the legal profession in Zimbabwe

    The International Bar Association (IBA)'s Human Rights Institute called for an immediate end to the escalating police violence and harassment against lawyers in Zimbabwe. The IBA is particularly concerned by recent police attacks on prominent Zimbabwean human rights lawyers seeking to defend both opposition members and other lawyers.

    The IBA calls for Zimbabwe to observe its international human rights obligations. Zimbabwe is bound by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights to guarantee the right to legal counsel of one's choosing.

    Furthermore, the IBA calls for the Zimbabwean Government to observe the provisions of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which provide that governments must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance or harassment.

    'The ongoing assaults and intimidation of human rights lawyers in Zimbabwe indicates that Robert Mugabe remains unperturbed by widespread international criticism of his attacks against political dissenters and human rights defenders,' said Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association. 'The situation is deplorable and the international community should not continue to stand by and watch Robert Mugabe's Government destroy the last vestiges of the rule of law.'

    On 15 May 2007, Zimbabwe police arrested ten lawyers in Mutare for protesting against the continued harassment and arrests of their fellow legal practitioners. The police detained the lawyers at Mutare Central Police Station before releasing them without charge later that afternoon.

    A day earlier, Zimbabwe police arrested lawyer Jonathan Samkange, on the grounds that he falsely declared that a guest he had hosted was a visitor instead of an intended witness in the Mann extradition. After being detained overnight, Mr Samkange was taken to court where the charges were dropped.

    These arrests form part of a series of Government attacks on and intimidation of lawyers, which has escalated since the 7 March 2007 prayer meeting in Highfield. The IBA demands that Zimbabwe police cease their attacks against lawyers immediately and that lawyers be allowed to carry out their professional duties freely.

    On 7 May, the IBA called for the immediate release of lawyers Alec Muchadahama and Andrew Makoni, who had been detained and charged with terrorism for representing 31 members of the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change. The police had detained the lawyers in violation of a High Court decision absolving them of wrongdoing, but have since released them on bail. On 8 May, the IBA also wrote to the Zimbabwe Police Commissioner, Augustine Chihuri, expressing its alarm that Zimbabwe police had beaten a number of highly-respected lawyers for being involved in a peaceful and legally-constituted protest against the arrests of Mr Makoni and Mr Muchadahama. No response has been received.

    For further information/expanded commentary, please contact:

    Romana St Matthew - Daniel
    Press Office
    International Bar Association
    10th Floor
    1 Stephen Street
    London W1T 1AT
    United Kingdom
    Tel: + 44 (0)20 7691 6868
    Fax: + 44 (0)20 7691 6544

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