ZLHR, L4L condemn attacks on lawyers

Lawyers’ associations have condemned the targeting of legal practitioners by the government during the Covid-19 induced lockdown period.

Lawyers 4 Lawyers (L4L) and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights issued a detailed report rebuking the government for mistreating lawyers during the course of lockdown, citing that such conduct had a bearing on citizens who were in need of their services.

The report highlighted that there were a lot of human rights violations during the course of the lockdown where numerous people were unlawfully arrested and since lawyers were not initially listed as essential service providers they could not get to their clients on time.

L4L and ZLHR noted that several lawyers were also arrested for violating curfew regulations.

“The beginning of 2020 saw an increase in the number of arrests of Zimbabwean lawyers, and in the restrictions placed on lawyers in their freedoms to carry out their profession. Authorities questioned and arrested a number of lawyers while they were carrying out their professional duties,” the report read.

“A large number of Zimbabwean lawyers were arrested in June 2020. On 10 July 2020, these lawyers were charged with “defeating or obstructing the course of justice”.

These arrests included the lawyers Dumisani Dube, Thabani Mpofu, Tapiwa Makanza and Joshua Chirambwe, who are believed to be arrested for conducting their professional duties.

Throughout 2020, ZLHR has repeatedly condemned “the increasing targeted arrests of lawyers during the execution of their professional duties”

Dumisani Dube, a Bulawayo-based lawyer, was arrested while representing a client, who was arrested on 6 June 2020 and was charged with defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

“The allegations of the State against Dube relate to his legal representation of a client. Dube had filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court on behalf of his client and then obtained an order favourable to his client. The State has alleged that Dube had filed a fake certificate of service and that the judgment in favour of his client as a result of this fake certificate,” the report read.

“On 6 June 2020, Dube appeared at Tredgold Magistrates Court in Bulawayo. He was granted bail at ZWL $5 000. On 18 June 2020, he returned to court. His lawyers made an application for refusal of further remand and the application was dismissed. However, the State prosecution withdrew his charges before plea on 30 September 2020.”

In the report, the lawyers recommended that authorities immediately and unconditionally put an end to all acts of harassment against lawyers, including at the judicial level.

“The government should take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of lawyers. It must also guarantee, in all circumstances, that all lawyers in Zimbabwe are able to carry out their legitimate professional rights and duties without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.”

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