ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is gravely concerned by the harassment and intimidation, of Harrison Nkomo, a senior legal practitioner, by some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers at Harare Magistrates Court, while discharging his professional duties as a lawyer.
Nkomo, a member of ZLHR, is the lead lawyer representing former Zengeza West legislator Hon. Job Sikhala, who is on trial on charges of allegedly inciting public violence and for allegedly communicating falsehoods. He was on Wednesday 24 January 2024 stopped by some ZRP officers from entering a courtroom at Harare Magistrates Court, where the trial was taking place and had a firearm pointed at him despite having identified himself to the police.
In court, Sikhala’s other lawyer Jeremiah Bamu of ZLHR, protested against the ill-treatment of his colleague before Magistrate Tafadzwa Miti, who ordered the prosecution to investigate the circumstances of the incident and submit a report in court.
ZLHR strongly condemns this unwarranted interference in the work of a professional legal practitioner and the subsequent reckless threat to his life, which emanated from having a firearm pointed at him.
Law enforcement agents must respect the rights of legal practitioners and stop attacks on lawyers while carrying out legitimate and professional duties.
This is the latest in a series of instances of harassment and persecution of lawyers by police officers in a worrying pattern of repression against legal practitioners in Zimbabwe.
As law enforcement agents, whose mandate includes protecting and securing the lives of people, ZRP officers must adequately protect the safety of citizens including legal practitioners and end the culture of impunity in which these worrying attacks occur.
Ill-treating legal practitioners in the manner in which Nkomo was treated, creates a real risk of violence against lawyers, and undermines the rule of law.
According to the United Nations (UN) Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, governments should ensure that all persons within their jurisdiction have effective and equal access to lawyers of their own choosing, and that lawyers are able to perform their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.
The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers require that lawyers are adequately protected when their security is threatened because of carrying out their legitimate professional duties, and not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes.
The work of legal practitioners is indispensable to building public confidence in the administration of justice by safeguarding due process rights and ensuring access to justice for all and hence the harassment and persecution of legal practitioners strikes at the very heart of the human rights system and has detrimental effects.
According to the provisions of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional.
These brutal abuses against legal practitioners are not isolated incidents but are widespread which warrants that government should carry out prompt and independent investigations into all cases of police abuse in the country.
In view of the foregoing, ZLHR calls on ZRP, other law enforcements agents and government to;
- Guarantee Nkomo’s safety and physical integrity including the provision of adequate protection measures and to ensure that legal practitioners are able to carry out their work free of fear, harassment or intimidation and to adequately protect the safety and independence of all lawyers and end the pervasive culture of impunity;
- Promptly and thoroughly investigate the abuse of Nkomo with the aim of identifying those responsible and bringing them to justice and holding perpetrators accountable in order to serve justice and to prevent re-occurrence of such violations;
- Consistently condemn in strong terms all forms of threats and attacks against legal practitioners;
- 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 critical stakeholders such as law enforcement agents;
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
No. 103 Sam Nujoma Street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 242 764085/705370/708118
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