HARARE – Global legal groups have petitioned the United Nations (UN) to exercise its influence to ensure Zimbabwe drops its charges against Harare rights lawyer Kudzayi Kadzere and guarantee the safety of the entire legal profession in the country.
Kadzere was treated for a fractured hand January this year following a savage attack by police officers while in the process of providing legal assistance to a group of opposition activists in Harare’s Budiriro suburb.
The 25 Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activists had been arrested for allegedly holding an unsanctioned meeting in the suburb.
In a February 27 letter to the UN Special Rapporteur, Margaret Satterthwaite on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the legal groups asked the UN to step in and ensure the rights of Zimbabwean lawyers was protected.
The groups requested the UN to “send a communication to the Government of Zimbabwe seeking guarantees” on the safety of lawyers.
The groups include the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Lawyers for Lawyers (LL), and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC).
They further asked the UN to ensure the Zimbabwean government ceases “the arbitrary prosecution against Mr. Kadzere and drop all charges”.
The legal groups also want the Zimbabwean government to, “promptly and thoroughly investigate the severe beating of Kadzere, amounting to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, with the aim of identifying those responsible and holding perpetrators accountable in order to serve justice and to prevent re-occurrence of violations.
“Ensure that Kudzayi Kadzere has access to an effective remedy and is provided full reparation for harm resulting from his abuse.
“Fully comply with and create awareness about the core values underlying the legal profession, amongst others, by bringing the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers to the attention of ZRP and other relevant stakeholders,” wrote the legal groups.
Prior to Kadzere’s assault case, there had been numerous complaints from legal practitioners about the police’s hostile conduct during political situations.
The legal organisations urged Satterthwaite to lobby Mnangagwa’s administration to take the necessary steps to ensure that lawyers carry out “their professional duties without interference” and are not identified “with their clients’ causes in accordance with Article 18 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers”.
Zimbabwe is a signatory to a number of international rights treaties, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), which requires the country to adhere to international standards regarding the independence of the legal profession.
The legal organisations also demanded that the Independent Complaints Mechanism, as provided in Section 210 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution, be established as soon as possible, with the mandate of receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about police misconduct.