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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
committing serious violations of the African Charter
Bar Association (IBA)
May 18, 2007
the special index page on the mistreatment of the legal profession
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Bar Association (IBA)'s Human Rights Institute (HRI), in partnership
with Amnesty International; Article 19; Human Rights Watch and Redress,
have released a joint report strongly contesting the content of
the submission by the Government of Zimbabwe to the African Commission
on Human and People's Rights.
The IBA HRI's chapter
of the joint report, titled 'Attacks on the Rule of Law',
counters the Zimbabwean Government's portrayal of recent events
in Zimbabwe. The IBA's HRI catalogues how the impartiality
of the legal profession in Zimbabwe has been severely compromised
through the persistent harassment and intimidation of judges and
lawyers. It also emphasises how these attacks on the profession
have undermined the authority of the courts, resulting in serious
violations of due process and greatly limiting the access Zimbabwean
citizens have to the justice system.
The IBA HRI's chapter
of the report further exposes the climate of impunity, and documents,
with particular concern, violations of the African Charter committed
by Zimbabwe's national police force, including the right to
security of person and the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest.
The IBA's HRI reminds the Government of Zimbabwe that it is
directly responsible for the police force, and that these agents
must act in accordance with domestic, regional and international
'The IBA's Human
Rights Institute has taken the unprecedented step of joining with
other renowned international NGO's to submit this report on
Zimbabwe to the African Commission,' stated Mark Ellis, IBA
Executive Director. 'I urge the Commission to hold the Zimbabwean
Government to account for grave breaches of the Charter. The arbitrary
arrests and violent beating of members of the legal profession by
the Zimbabwean police this week further compounds the evidence collated
in the report,'
In accordance with Article
62 of the African Charter, member countries are answerable to the
African Commission, the institution charged with over seeing the
implementation of the Charter, through the submission of periodic
reports. These reports provide information on progress made in the
protection and promotion of the rights enshrined in the Charter.
In its submission to the African Commission in October 2006, the
Zimbabwean Government gave a glowing account of its human rights
The report to the African
Commission prepared by the IBA's HRI in collaboration with
other international non-governmental organisations, aims to provide
a realistic portrait of the current situation in Zimbabwe. The Report
exposes the failure of the Zimbabwean authorities to comply with
obligations under the African Charter and uphold the most fundamental
human rights, categorically contesting the Zimbabwean Governments
point of view.
All five contributing
organisations contend that the Government of Zimbabwe has failed
to protect the rights contained in the African Charter. It is hoped
that, despite the positive picture depicted by the Zimbabwean Government
in its own submission, such assertions surrounding the country's
human rights record will be found to be inconsistent with the realities
on the ground. The events of the past month further compound the
gravity of the situation and it is hoped that the African Commission
will take this opportunity to strongly condemn the violations highlighted
in this report and hold the Zimbabwean Government to account for
the serious breaches of the Charter.
the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to life and
the right to property are outlined in Chapter 1 by Human Rights
Watch. The chapter details how these rights have been repeatedly
swept aside under the fast-track land reform programme initiated
in 2000, and in Operation
Murambatsvina in 2005.
Chapter 2, written by
the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute,
demonstrates how the principles of the rule of law and the independence
of the courts in Zimbabwe have been severely compromised through
intimidation of judges and lawyers. This has undermined the courts'
jurisdiction and authority and resulted in discrimination in the
application of the law.
Despite the prohibition
of torture under international law, including the African Charter,
and the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Redress submits in Chapter 3 that
the government of Zimbabwe has systematically used torture on a
huge scale. Perpetrators include the army, law enforcement agencies
and other state agents including so-called 'war veterans'.
The risk of further torture for those who dare to report such violations
and the refusal by authorities to investigate has left victims without
remedy or reparation.
Chapter 4, by
Amnesty International, details how the government of Zimbabwe has
repeatedly violated the rights to freedom of association and assembly
in order to curtail peaceful criticism of the government from the
public, civil society organizations and the political opposition.
A combination of excessive use of force by the police and repressive
legislation such as the Public
Order and Safety Act (POSA) has been employed to silence dissent.
Finally, Chapter 5, by
Article 19, highlights the shortcomings of the state report's
description of Zimbabwe's record on freedom of expression.
It details the effects of restrictive legislation on journalists,
newspapers and broadcasters. This chapter also shows how the government
of Zimbabwe has clashed with the Supreme Court over unconstitutional
moves such as the state monopoly on broadcasting.
The shadow report
was produced by the International Bar Association's Human
Rights Institute working with following five human rights organizations
Amnesty International; Article 19; Human Rights Watch; Redress;
Human Rights NGO Forum. Each chapter was written independently,
but they have been collated to facilitate easy consideration by
the African Commission.
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