Zimbabwe lawyers 'face routine attacks'

Zimbabwe's police and security officers are routinely intimidating, attacking and even abducting local lawyers, according to an open letter from human rights activists in the country.

In a comprehensive and hard hitting statement from the group, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, alleged harassment of the legal profession is reaching endemic proportions.

Arbitrary arrest

The letter to the Zimbabwean newsaper says it is ‘common place to hear of regular and increasingly frequent attacks against members of the legal profession, both in the private sector and within the public service’.
According to the group, lawyers – especially those involved in human rights work – have been arbitrarily arrested and wrongfully detained, as well as subjected to harassment by political party activists. In addition, the group claims the authorities routinely attempt to seize law firm mobile telephones and obtain unlawful access to client files.

Judicial co-operation

The letter calls on the government to give a public undertaking ‘that all members of the legal profession will be properly protected by the authorities in compliance with constitutional, regional and international law obligations, and will be allowed to continue representing all and any clients who call upon their services without fear or favour and without the threat of physical and/or psychological harm’.
It also calls for the authorities to respect the principles of professional privilege and client confidentiality. Judges, says the group, should ‘increase co-operation and engagement between the bar and bench at a practical level in the understanding that legal practitioners and the judiciary are partners in the ongoing struggle to protect and ensure the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary’.

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