Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

When one loses one’s sense of shame and thrives on notoriety

Posted by CM on June 20, 2007

Shock for lawyers in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s government has been urged to end the harassment of lawyers,control the police and restore the rule of law. A team from the International Commission of Jurists said it was shocked at the cavalier response of officials to police attacks on lawyers.

The Geneva-based group says it is also concerned about the role the police have been allowed to play in Zimbabwe.The team visited Zimbabwe for five days to investigate the recent intimidation of lawyers representing the opposition.

“I was frankly personally shocked that lawyers could be beaten in police stations, said Kenyan ICJ delegate George Kegoro. “The amount of repression and personal consequences for lawyers and for persons who are unpopular to the government is something I found very shocking.”

The International Commission of Jurists warns that if the current level of tension between the Zimbabwean government and the legal profession is not resolved soon, it will only deepen the damage to the rule of law.

“I’ve seen all kinds of things during my 30 year career on the bench, but the beating of lawyers, and the police not obeying court orders, I had never seen that to that extent. It really was shocking,” said Canadian delegate Claire L’Heureux-Dube.”The lawyers have an incredible strength. They have been threatened. They need a lot of security, and they work in conditions that are really threatening. It takes a lot of courage. These lawyers who put their life at stake, have got it.”

“We can only hope our findings have an impact on the Zimbabwean authorities. I don’t think any country likes to be shamed internationally,” she added.

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One can forgive L’Heureux-Dube her shock, but really things have been gradually, inexorably building up to this stage for years. The Mugabe regime has become more blatantly repressive as things continue to spiral out of its control and as it loses any hope of turning around its dog-house international image. They have figured, probably correctly, that the public abuse of a new group of citizens, even those previously thought to enjoy some “prestige protection” like lawyers, would really not make that much more difference to the government’s already tattered reputation.

If the above report is accurate, there is one thing she is plain wrong about : the Zimbabwean authorities are beyond being “shamed” by how they appear to the world. I would go so far as to say that they probably now actually revel in their bad-boy notoriety. Every escalation of violence against the citizens is another opportunity to say to the abused and to the world : we know you neither like nor approve of us and our behaviour, but we are in control; what are you going to do about it?

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