State Violating Accused Persons’ Rights: Coltart

Human rights lawyer and pro-democracy activist, Douglas Coltart has bemoaned the wanton violation of rights of accused persons arrested in connection with the violent shutdown protests that rocked the country a fortnight ago.

Speaking to 263Chat during a planned march by lawyers under the banner of Law Society of Zimbabwe, Coltart said the state was abrogating its constitutional mandate to respect the human rights of all citizens including accused persons.

“So we have three main demands, restoration of the rule of law, full compliance with the constitution and the respect of the human rights. The reason why lawyers are marching today is there has been a lot of problems of human rights and issues to do with the judiciary for a long time.

“But over the past two past two weeks we have seen something quiet unprecedented in terms of the sheer scale of human rights atrocities being perpetrated which the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) reported that there has been a systematic use of torture which is a crime against humanity and international law. So that is the first aspect, wide spread human rights abuses.

“Secondly when those people are brought before the courts these are the people who have been abducted from their homes, beaten up in front of their wives and children dragged to the police station and then brought back to court.  Once they get to court, the accused persons’ rights are being violated once again. The rights to be a free trial, the right to be heard, what seems a direct across the board where almost universally bail has been denied any application brought by the defence counsel has been rejected.

“…all this means, we as lawyers effectively we cannot really do our job at all because we can’t represent our clients effectively and whatever happens what we do and say has no impact what so ever in terms of the processes at courts unfold.”

Lawyers, clad in their black gown, marched in the central business district of Harare and submitted their petition to the constitutional court.

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