Lawyers under fire

Zanu (PF) youths last week harassed and threatened to assault three human rights lawyers who had represented two Mbare residents charged with committing sodomy.

The youths, led by Jim Kunaka, the party’s Harare province youth chairperson ambushed Belinda Chinowawa and her co-counsel, Jeremiah Bamu and Kennedy Masiye of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights as they left the court room last Monday and interrogated them for being “unpatriotic”.

At first Chinowawa, Bamu and Masiye tried to explain to the Zanu (PF) mob that as lawyers it was their function and duty to represent anyone who sought their services.

But this only served to further incensed the youths, who began hurling profanities and threatened to assault the lawyers.

Kunaka blocked the lawyers as they attempted to drive away from the court and launched a tirade against them and threatened to stone their car if they defied him by continuing to drive.

He threatened the lawyers with violence should they dare to return to court on Tuesday for the ruling on bail.

Prosecutors and police details stationed at the court watched from their offices, and at no point did they attempt to disperse the crowd, or otherwise rescue the lawyers.

Petra protests

ZLHR executive director Irene Petras protested to the Resident Magistrate at Mbare Magistrates Courts about the treatment of the legal practitioners. She requested that the matter be moved from Mbare Magistrates Court to any other court where the lawyers can continue to represent their clients without fear of reprisals.

“Our three lawyers have no doubt that the threats of violence are real and that the mobsters are capable of meting out acts of violence as threatened…

We therefore wish to register this complaint formally and place this complaint on record, and to further state that the lawyers now fear for the safety of their clients,” said Petras, Impunity for the youths would spur similar criminal acts and escalate

the assault against the justice delivery system in future cases which are not to the liking of particular individuals and/ or sectors of society, she said.

On Thursday Mbare Resident Magistrate Brighton Pabwe assured Petras of some security guarantees for her lawyers to represent their clients when the trial re-commenced as moving the case to another court would delay justice. – ZLHR Legal Monitor

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