Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Zimbabwe harasses opposition attorneys

The government of Zimbabwe has arrested attorneys representing the democratic opposition. The Mugabe dictatorship has ruled Zimbabwe since the 1980’s and has reacted with repression and increasing violence to the growing opposition movement.

This report is from IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Network – a project of the U.N. Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs):
The detention of two lawyers for providing legal counsel to members of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party is the latest attempt by the ZANU-PF government to undermine the rule of law and victimise practitioners representing the opposition, legal experts have said.

Condemnation of the arrests came on Tuesday as the Law Society of Zimbabwe, which represents the country's legal fraternity, organised a protest march in the capital, Harare, but a lawyer told IRIN that heavily armed police had prevented the protest from taking place.

Police arrested Alec Muchadehama, 41, and Andrew Makoni, 36, late on Friday afternoon outside the High Court as they tried to submit papers opposing efforts by the state to prevent the court from granting bail to their clients, who are facing charges of banditry and terrorism. The lawyers have been charged with obstructing the course of justice.

The two men spent the weekend in jail and were released on bail on Monday, despite a High Court ruling on Saturday that they should be released immediately as they had been arrested unlawfully. The police defied the order and then raided the lawyers' offices on Sunday, saying they were looking for "subversive materials".

The lawyers have been representing 13 MDC members arrested on 28 March for allegedly petrol bombing a passenger train, police stations and supermarkets in various parts of the country.

In a statement earlier this year, ZLHR called for the total independence of the legal system, as it is "the cornerstone of any democratic society and is protected in various international agreements, including the United Nations Basic Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary ... to curtail arbitrariness and ensure that the law is applied fairly and equally".

This is not the first time the government has been accused of victimising members of the judiciary that it considered too critical of its policies. In 2000, the government launched its fast-track land reform programme to redistribute land from white farmers to landless blacks, but the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay, ruled in favour of the ejected farmers that the land occupations were unconstitutional.

President Mugabe launched a verbal attack against "white judges". Gubbay, whose office was at one time invaded by war veterans accusing him of favouring white farmers, resigned his post the following year. He was one of the eight white High Court and Supreme Court judges who resigned from the bench in just three years from the time the land invasions started.
You can read the entire article here.

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