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LAC sounds alarm on Zim lawyers

Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Staff Reporter
The Namibian

THE Legal Assistance Centre has expressed alarm about reports that two lawyers in Zimbabwe were arrested without charge and held incommunicado despite two court orders to allow them access to their lawyers and families.

"We have learned that they have since been released, after numerous efforts to locate the lawyers failed in the course of the past weekend.

We are, however, extremely concerned about reports that human rights lawyers in Zimbabwe continue to receive threats and harassment from Zimbabwean security officials, whilst these lawyers are conducting their business of representing clients, many of whom were arrested, detained and tortured by the authorities," said Norman Tjombe, Director of the Legal Assistance Centre in Namibia.

Meanwhile, Nampa-AP reported yesterday that armed police violently broke up a demonstration of lawyers wearing traditional legal gowns outside Zimbabwe's High Court, took several away and beat them, the independent Law Society and witnesses said.

One group was corralled onto a truck and taken to grassland in Harare's Eastlea suburb, where they were made to lie down and were assaulted, said attorney Beatrice Mtetwa, head of the Zimbabwe Law Society.

During the lunchtime demonstration in downtown Harare, some of the lawyers, in white court collars and other legal attire, were struck with riot sticks as they argued their rights against orders to disperse.

On Friday, law enforcement officers arrested lawyers Alec Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni while they were conducting business outside the High Court in Harare.

The arresting officers did not provide any reason for the arrest.

The Harare protest by the lawyers was against this arrest and detention of two of their colleagues.

Justice Tedius Karwi of the High Court of Zimbabwe issued an order the same night directing police to allow the two to meet with their lawyers, to receive food and medical attention if necessary, and to receive visits from their relatives.

"The arrest of these two lawyers, who are known to promote human rights through their advocacy, appears to be intended to intimidate and silence them, and to send a warning to all lawyers engaged in human rights promotion and protection in Zimbabwe," Tjombe said.

He said the Zimbabwean government was obligated under international law to protect the rights of lawyers, including those engaged in promoting human rights.

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