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Zimbabwe: GALZ activists bailed; 'persecution' not 'legitimate prosecution' says Human Rights Forum

Related peace activists: 

GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe) staff Ellen Chadamena and Ignatius Muhambia were bailed on Thursday, 27 May, and will have a "remand" hearing on 10 June, before appearing in the high court on 18 June. They face charges of ‘insulting the office of the President’ and allegedly possessing ‘pornographic material’. Their lawyer told press that they would be medically examined "so that we can pursue an action against the people who were responsible for the beatings and torture.”

GALZ, an affiliate of WRI, is now consulting with other civil society and human rights groups in Zimbabwe about the situation in which it has to operate.

On 27 May 2010, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum produced the following press release:

Today, Thursday 27th of May 2010, at around 12 noon, Magistrate Munamato
Mutevedzi granted bail in relation to Ellen Chademana and Ignatius
Muhambi - 2 employees of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
organization on the seventh day of their detention.

The bail application was observed by many representatives of local
non-governmental organisations. It was encouraging to note that, despite
the best efforts of the police – particularly Detective Inspector
Timothy Chibvuma who is the Officer in Charge of Drugs Section of the
Harare Central police station, and the office of the Attorney General –
particularly Mr. Bruce Tokwe – the magistrate came to his conclusions on
the basis of the law and not external factors.

The same, however, cannot be said of other judicial officers who have
become involved in this case, which once again smacks of persecution
rather than legitimate prosecution. It is a matter of public record that
lawyers representing our 2 colleagues were forced to file an Urgent
Chamber Application in the High Court in Harare on Tuesday 25th of May
2010 whilst all of us were commemorating Africa Day. This was because
Chademana and Mhambi were, as from the previous evening, being
over-detained by the police without being brought to court or
released. In addition, medication for Ms. Chademana’s diabetic condition
was being denied to her.

Instead of attending at court to apply her mind to the matter, the Duty
Judge, Justice Lavender Makoni, instead asked a clerk present at court
to read her the basis of the application over the telephone. Thereafter,
she advised that the matter “could wait” for the following day.

It is also a matter of public record that, that same evening, our 2
colleagues – left at the mercy of the police – were severely assaulted
by state agents in a manner which clearly amounts to torture and cruel,
inhuman and degrading punishment. They were also warned that these
criminals were going to return later to deal further with the two.

We learned that on the morning of Wednesday 26th of May 2010, these
extremely disturbing developments were brought to the attention of the
High Court by way of a Supplementary Affidavit which is part of the
public record, with the expectation that the court would realise the
urgency and act to protect the fundamental rights of detainees. Instead,
Justice Joseph Musakwa – who is dealing with the matter now – chose to
set the matter down for hearing on the afternoon of Thursday the 27th of
May 2010 – leaving our colleagues exposed to the police
and other state agents for another 24 hours.

We commend Magistrate Mutevedzi for acting in terms of the law to
protect the interests of accused persons appearing before him. However,
the time has come for us to refuse to allow the actions of the High
Court to go unnoticed or unchallenged.

Judicial officers are constitutionally obliged to protect the rights and
freedoms of all the people of Zimbabwe without fear or favour. Not only
must justice be done, but it must be seen to be done. In this instance,
it is regrettable that the perception in the mind of any reasonable
person is that some courts and some judicial officers do not care about
their constitutional obligations, and that they believe some accused
persons are not worthy of their attention or the protection
the courts are meant to offer.

It is not the first time that delays on the parts of the High Court have
led to unspeakable violations – one only has to recall the images of
March 11, 2007 or the abduction and subsequent torture of Jestina Mukoko.

In the Global Political Agreement, our leaders committed themselves to
“re-orient [their] attitudes towards respect for the Constitution and
all national laws [and] the rule of law”. Article XIII goes further to
state that “State organs and institutions … should be impartial in the
discharge of their duties” and that “all state organs and institutions
[must] strictly observe the principles of the Rule of Law and remain
non-partisan and impartial” and that “laws and regulations governing
state organs and institutions [must be] strictly adhered to and those
violating them be penalized without fear or favour”. The courts
themselves have publicly commented on this and bound themselves to such
a way of doing business.

What kind of society are we living in if we cannot be assured that the
courts will come to the assistance of the weak and those who are at the
mercy of powerful state forces and machinery?

It is time for the judiciary in this country to make a stand and reclaim
their independence and effectiveness. Rule of Law must be maintained if
we are to have any hope for economic recovery, investment, uplifting of
social and economic conditions, and public confidence in the justice
delivery system.

Judicial officers who refuse or are unwilling to play their part must
and will be publicly exposed as they should not remain part of the bench
in a free, democratic and prosperous society.

Judges may believe that they are immune or exempt from public criticism,
but where they themselves act with no regard for laws and rules of
procedure, they – and no others – are the ones bringing the bench into
disrepute.

Ends/

This statement was issued by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum on
behalf NANGO, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and the broader civil
society. For further information feel free to contact Abel Chikomo on
0912 260 664 or 04-772 860.

http://www.hrforumzim.com/press/state-of-the-judiciary.pdf