The organisers of the award, Canadian NGO Rights and Democracy, say the
lawyers have played a leading role in the promotion and protection of
human rights across Zimbabwe since its founding in 1996. Guided by a
professional commitment to the rule of law and Zimbabwe's international
human rights obligations, ZLHR provides essential services ranging from
legal support for victims of state-endorsed persecution to public
education and human rights training for activists and civil society
organizations working at the community level.
In 2003, ZLHR established a project to provide legal support for human
rights defenders facing prosecution. Up to 1,500 Zimbabweans now
benefit from the service each year, and its lawyers have yet to lose a
single case in the project’s five year history.
Irene Petras, Executive Director of ZLHR, attributes this superb track
record to both the heroic tenacity of the project’s lawyers and the
fact that there is rarely any evidence to support the charges brought
against their clients.
Prosecution is used as a tool of persecution, she said. Ms. Petras
and fellow lawyer Andrew Makoni will accept the John Humphrey Freedom
Award on behalf of ZLHR at an Ottawa ceremony on Dec. 10, International
Human Rights Day.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights provides a vital democratic lifeline
for those who would otherwise have no recourse against state-sponsored
abuses and persecution, said Dr. Jacques P. Gauthier, Interim Chair of
Rights & Democracy's (the International Centre for Human Rights and
Democratic Development) Board of Directors. Its determined,
non-violent struggle against impunity and repression reminds us that,
in the end, tyranny is no match for human dignity and the rule of law.