Annual Report: Zimbabwe 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Zimbabwe 2010

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However, when they were summoned to court, the charges were changed to destruction of property and chanting insults against President Mugabe.

Harassment of lawyers and judicial officers

Harassment and intimidation continued of lawyers representing human rights and political activists, and of court officials.

  • On 14 May, Alec Muchadehama, a lawyer who was representing journalist Andrison Manyere and two MDC-T officials, was arrested at the magistrates' court in Harare by police officers from the Law and Order Section. He was charged with defeating or obstructing the course of justice for "unlawfully causing the release" of Kisimusi Dhlamini, Gandhi Mudzingwa and Andrison Manyere by misinforming and misdirecting High Court officials. He was detained overnight. He was acquitted on 10 December. In a related case, Constance Gambara, the High Court clerk who facilitated the temporary release of the three detainees, was arrested on 6 May on charges of criminal abuse of public duty. She was granted bail on 8 May, but the state invoked Section 121 of the CPEA and she remained in custody with her nine-month-old baby. She was released on 14 May after the state withdrew its appeal against bail. She was also acquitted on 10 December.

Impunity

No meaningful measures were taken to bring to justice perpetrators of serious human rights violations during the state-sponsored violence and torture of political opponents of ZANU-PF in the run-up to the second round of the presidential elections in June 2008. At least 200 people were killed and over 9,000 injured in the violence. A few isolated prosecutions were recorded. The Organ on National Healing created by the government did not prioritize bringing the perpetrators to account, nor did the Ministries of Defence and Home Affairs see the need for urgent institutional reform to combat impunity. Throughout 2009, elements within the army, police and intelligence services felt able to continue targeting human rights activists and members of the MDC-T for human rights violations.

The Attorney General's office was either unwilling to investigate alleged human rights violations or was complicit in them. Torture and other ill-treatment Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees persisted. No perpetrators were brought to justice.

  • In September the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe ruled among other things that Jestina Mukoko (see above) had been tortured by state security agents who abducted and held her incommunicado in December 2008. Despite this, no investigation was carried out.
  • At least 95 soldiers were arrested in October in Harare on suspicion of breaking into an armoury at Pomona barracks and stealing 21 guns. They were reportedly tortured while being interrogated by members of the Central Intelligence Organization, Military Intelligence Corps and Military Police. At least two of them died as a result of the injuries sustained. One was reported to have committed suicide while in solitary confinement. Pascal Gwezere, a transport manager for the MDC-T who was charged with the same offence, was detained by state security agents from his home in Harare on 27 October and tortured. He was denied access to medical treatment. He was released on 24 December on bail after the Supreme Court upheld an earlier bail ruling by the High Court.

Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur, was barred from entering Zimbabwe on 28 October. The government withdrew the invitation two days earlier on the grounds that an SADC delegation was in the country assessing the performance of the unity government.

Justice system - independence of the judiciary

Magistrates' courts found themselves under pressure after passing decisions not favourable to the Attorney General's office. The lower courts came under increased pressure in cases against MDC-T officials and human rights defenders, often seeing judicial officers themselves facing trumped-up charges at the instigation of the Attorney General's office. The charges were intended to instil fear among judicial officers, undermining their independence and impartiality.