20 July 2007

INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF ADVOCATES AND BARRISTERS ATTACKS ZIMBABWE'S VIOLENT SUPPRESSION OF LAWYERS

The International Council of Barristers and Advocates (ICAB), of which the Faculty of Advocates is a member, has today (20 July 2007) condemned the continuing campaign of intimidation and violence being waged on Zimbabwe's lawyers by Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF regime.

ICAB has expressed its concern after lawyers were subject to physical violence and intimidation by police in Zimbabwe.

In early May, Beatrice Mtetwa, the President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, and other lawyers were beaten by police for protesting against the arrest of two colleagues.

Mrs Mtetwa and several others were arrested following a rally outside the High Court in Zimbabwe's capital Harare, and were subjected to further assaults by the police which left them requiring medical treatment. The lawyers had been attempting to protest against the arrest and imprisonment of Andrew Makoni and Alec Muchadehama who had been representing imprisoned opposition activists.

In late June, a group of lawyers who attempted to assemble at the High Court in Bulawayo and to carry out a peaceful march to deliver a petition of protest to the Governor of Bulawayo were threatened and harassed by armed riot police.

In 2004, a group of senior barristers from ICAB visited Harare to enquire into the threats to the rule of law and to the judiciary and legal profession which were occurring in Zimbabwe.

In their Report, ICAB concluded that:
– Lawyers and magistrates had faced violent attacks on themselves and their families
– Lawyers for politically unpopular causes had been attacked or tortured
– Senior judge appointments had been subject to political interference
– The Zanu-PF party had enforced the removal of politically independent judges
– Judges had been removed through psychological and physical intimidation
– The government of Zimbabwe picked sympathetic judges to handle sensitive cases

ICAB has highlighted its concerns in a letter to the Law Society of Zimbabwe, the country's Attorney-General and its Chief Justice as well as the Commonwealth Secretary-General.

As Co-chair of ICAB, Mr Roy Martin QC said: "The importance of an independent justice system to a democratic state cannot be overstated, but in several countries we have seen a steady eroding of the impartiality of the courts and the intimidation of lawyers who try to retain their independence."

ICAB is an association of the independent referral Bars of Australia, England & Wales, Hong Kong, Ireland, Namibia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The Faculty of Advocates and other members of ICAB are also signatories of the Edinburgh Declaration Trust which gives advocates and barristers the opportunity to provide practical and financial help to lawyers in Zimbabwe and in other places around the world where the independence of the courts and the ability of the legal profession to practise and organise freely is under threat.

The Trust is named after a Declaration signed in Edinburgh in 2002.

Issued by Beattie Communications on behalf of the Faculty of Advocates For further information, contact Nick King on 01324 602603, mobile 07876 548577

Note:- The Faculty of Advocates comprises Scotland's 460-plus practising advocates and QCs as well as many of the country's judges, sheriffs and academics. Founded in 1532, the Faculty is an independent body of lawyers who have been admitted to appear in the supreme courts of Scotland. Total numbers now stand at over 700. Practising members, of whom one fifth have attained the senior status of Queen's Counsel, handle the most complex criminal and civil cases in the country

 

20 July 2007

The Hon Mr Justice G. G. Chidyausiku,
Chief Justice of Zimbabwe,
Supreme Court of Zimbabwe,
Third Street and Kwame Nkruma Avenue,
Harare,
Zimbabwe.

Dear Sir,

International Council of Advocates and Barristers (ICAB)

I write in my capacity as co-chair of ICAB which is an association of the independent referral Bars of Australia, England & Wales, Hong Kong, Ireland, Namibia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

On behalf of ICAB, I wish to express our deep and continuing concern about the treatment of members of the legal profession in Zimbabwe and the threats which appear to exist in your jurisdiction to the rule of law. In the past two months, we have become aware of physical attacks and intimidation by police against members of the legal profession.

In May, we are informed that the President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and other lawyers who were protesting about the arrest of two colleagues. A number of members of the legal profession were arrested and subjected to further assaults by police which left them requiring medical treatment.

At the end of June, we understand that a group of lawyers who met at the High Court in Bulawayo in order to carry out a peaceful march and to deliver a petition to the Governor were threatened and harassed by armed riot police.

As a senior law officer/member of the judiciary, I am sure that you do not need to be reminded of your duties to the rule of law and to preserve the independence of the legal profession. I therefore hope that in light of these circumstances you and your colleagues will do all that you can to ensure that the rights of the legal profession are protected and that the police and other authorities do not engage in unwarranted acts of violence and intimidation against them.

Yours faithfully,
Roy L. Martin, Q.C.,
Co-chair, International Council of Advocates and Barristers