Tough year for lawyers

HARARE - From arrests to vilification, Zimbabwe’s human rights lawyers endured a tough 2012.

Lawyers have continually been denied access to their clients while also being subjected to verbal attacks at police stations and in courtrooms for executing their duties, a leading lawyers’ group has said.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said the year presented immense challenges for lawyers.

“The environment within which lawyers operated in 2012 remained challenging as legal practitioners — the last line of defence — continued to encounter threats, harassment and intimidation despite state obligations and responsibilities that enforce adequate protection to members of the legal fraternity in the exercise of their professional functions,” said ZLHR in an end of year statement.

“Although it is extremely important for lawyers to operate in an independent and free environment to ensure that the justice delivery process remains credible, continued attacks impacted negatively on the rights of lawyers’ clients, including access to legal representatives of their choice,” said the lawyers’ body, which has close to 200 members dedicated to fighting for human rights countrywide.

Recently,  ZLHR petitioned government to respect, promote and protect lawyers in the course of carrying out their duties from all forms of threats, harassment and intimidation.

In the petition, the group said it was “greatly concerned” about the rising patterns of threats, harassment and attacks against lawyers and the inaction of relevant authorities. - Helen Kadirire

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