US lawyers concerned over Zim legal system

Zimbabwean anti-riot police forces watch men arrested during violent protests triggered by a sudden rise in fuel prices announced by Zimbabwean president, before their hearing at the Law Court in Harare on January 16, 2019. Picture: AFP/File/Jekesai NJIKIZANA

Zimbabwean anti-riot police forces watch men arrested during violent protests triggered by a sudden rise in fuel prices announced by Zimbabwean president, before their hearing at the Law Court in Harare on January 16, 2019. Picture: AFP/File/Jekesai NJIKIZANA

The Law Society of Zimbabwe also released a statement saying it had ‘observed practices that do not show that justice is being done’.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has expressed concern over the dearth of justice in Zimbabwe’s legal system following protests which broke out over increases in fuel prices.

The United States lawyers said the rate at which suspected protesters were being fast-tracked without due process had “no place in a democratic society”.

“The American Bar Association is deeply concerned about the ongoing unrest in Zimbabwe. While the ABA condemns acts of violence that occurred during recent public protests against the government, we are troubled over allegations of arbitrary arrests and the fast-tracking of trials without due process protections,” ABA president Bob Carlson said in a statement.

According to the largest voluntary legal professional membership organisation in the world, “credible reports indicate that many of those arrested are being tried in groups of 50 or more and are being denied the right to bail and to effectively consult their lawyers”.

“In some instances, lawyers reportedly have not been informed of the charges against their clients in advance, and it is unclear whether individualised proof of guilt is being required in these deeply flawed proceedings, in which several alleged protestors have already been convicted,” the American lawyers said.

The ABA urged the Zimbabwean government to ensure all the accused are afforded full due process of law, as guaranteed in Zimbabwe’s Constitution and relevant regional and international instruments.

The lawyers said without fair trials, trust in government and the rule of law collapses.

Since the outbreak of demonstrations and subsequent arrests, the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) released a statement saying it had “observed practices that do not show that justice is being done”.

Zimbabwean legal practitioners, through the LSZ, have been complaining about the collapse of the justice system since suspected protesters were arrested mid-January.

They claimed there was now a “miscarriage of justice” in the country.

The lawyers petitioned the Constitutional Court on Tuesday demanding restoration of justice and an end to court processes interference by the executive.

The lawyers demanded an immediate end to the involvement of the military in civilian matters.

Human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told journalists Tuesday after handing over the petition that legal practitioners were demanding “restoration of rule of law in the country, respect of our constitution and respect for all rights associated with trials”.

The petition was with specific reference to the current prosecutions, which Mtetwa said were “being fast-tracked without pre-trial procedures being followed; with lawyers being denied access to clients; with some injured persons being denied medical attention and generally trials that are conducted outside what is regarded as fair and impartial justice”.

The crackdown by members of the security services left 12 people dead and 300 wounded, some injured by gunshots, according to human rights doctors.

African News Agency (ANA)

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