Zimbabwean lawyers on Friday 29 November 2019 marched during a demonstration to protest against harassment and assault of legal practitioners and ordinary citizens.
Dozens of placard waving lawyers gathered outside the High Court in Harare and marched to Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe’s office and to Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga’s office in Harare, where they delivered copies of a petition protesting against harassment and assault of ordinary citizens including lawyers by some ZRP officers while executing their professional duties.
In the petition handed over to Aaron Nhepera, the Home Affairs Permanent Secretary and to ZRP spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi by representatives of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Young Lawyers Association of Zimbabwe, the lawyers protested against the disregard for the law and some constitutional provisions demonstrated by some ZRP officers during the course of the year and more importantly in the past two months.
The legal practitioners cited the heavy-handed approach of some law enforcement agents in October and in November, which resulted in the death in custody of a vendor Hilton Tamangani, the assault of members of the public including women and elderly citizens, the unlawful detention of minors, the assault of journalists, arbitrary arrests of ordinary citizens, the denial of access of legal practitioners to their clients by some ZRP officers and the assault of Douglas Coltart a human rights lawyer in the course of him carrying out his duties at Harare Central Police Station.
The violations of people’s rights by some ZRP officers, the lawyers said, will discredit ZRP in the eyes of citizens as well as in the region and internationally.
The lawyers called upon ZRP officers to operate within the requirements of the Constitution and to stop the use of disproportionate force, arbitrary arrests and torture of citizens.
ZRP, the lawyers said, should launch an inquiry into all assaults of members of the public at the hands of some law enforcement agents with the aim of identifying perpetrators and holding them accountable in order to serve justice and prevent recurrence of violations.
The legal practitioners urged government to expedite establishment of an Independent Complaints Mechanism as provided in section 210 of the Constitution, which will be mandated with receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services, who include the Police Service and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct.
ZRP officers, the lawyers said, should be trained on their duties in terms of the Constitution especially the requirement for them not to act in a partisan manner, not to further the interests of any political party or cause, not to prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause or violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.
The legal practitioners said ZRP officers should fully comply with the core values underlying the legal profession and the duties of the police and should be educated on the United Nations basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.