Zimbabwe: Andrew Makoni and Alec Muchadehama

Re: Andrew Makoni and Alec Muchadehama

To: The President of Zimbabwe and others

From: Charles B Davison, member of LRWC

Date: 2007-05-17

I am once again writing to you as a result of my concern about reports of a number of serious incidents of violence and illegal conduct in which your police are apparently engaging in relation to lawyers in Zimbabwe. I wrote to you earlier this month, concerning the cases of Andrew Makoni and Alec Muchadehama and they are again the subject, in part, of the present letter. I understand as follows:

  • After the arrests of Mssr.s Makoni and Muchadehama on May 4, other lawyers attended at the offices of the Law and Order section to confirm the presence of their colleagues there, but these lawyers were chased out of the offices by a detective, who also threatened to assault at least one lawyer and to arrest all if they persisted in their enquiries as to the whereabouts of the prisoners;
  • Mssr.s Makoni and Muchadehama have been denied access to their relatives, and denied food and medication;
  • Court orders directing that Mssr.s Makoni and Muchadehama be given access to legal counsel and be provided with food and medication have not been followed by your authorities;
  • Court orders that both men should be released have not been obeyed;
  • On May 6, the police sought to search the law offices of Mssr.s Makoni and Muchadehama. When the deputy secretary of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and an official from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights asked to be allowed to examine the search warrant they were threatened with arrest. THe police seized certain documents and files and refused to permit an inventory to be taken before these items were removed;
  • Lawyers seeking to serve orders for the release of these men have themselves been harassed, threatened and intimidated by the police;
  • on May 8, 2007 at least 6 senior lawyers, including the president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and a former president of that body, were beaten by police in Harare when they led other members of the legal profession in protest against the harassment of lawyers in your country and the breakdown of the rule of law as represented by the police refusals to obey valid court orders.

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada is particularly concerned about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe and what seems to be the increasing abuse of human rights defenders and lawyers in your country. The refusal by police agencies to obey proper court orders amounts to a serious breakdown in the smooth functioning of any society, and invites chaos and tyranny. Harassment, intimidation and other forms of abuse aimed at lawyers who are targeted because they are properly performing their professional roles is clearly contrary to such international conventions as the International Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998.

We again call for the immediate release from custody of Andrew Makoni and Alec Muchadehama and that their physical and psychological integrity of both men – and all other members of human rights organizations or professions in Zimbabwe – be fully protected both in and outside of the custodial setting. We also call for an open, independent inquiry into such events as those summarized above, so that those who are responsible for these offences may be properly prosecuted and punished according to law. Finally, we repeat our call that your government and country observe and adhere to its various international commitments and obligations.