Judiciary under attack

HARARE - Human rights lawyers say the judiciary is under threat following a sustained media onslaught on High Court judge Charles Hungwe, who has been under fire since granting an order to free human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa.

Hungwe also granted the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) a search warrant to investigate alleged corruption at three ministries headed by Zanu PF ministers.

Speaking under the auspices of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the lawyers said the attack on Hungwe “constitutes a professional and personal attack on a well-respected judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe, as well as a broader and more disturbing assault on the independence and integrity of the judiciary and legal profession in Zimbabwe.”

Legal experts have already warned that an attack on Hungwe could influence judicial officers at a time when Zimbabwe is headed towards critical polls which are characterised by political tensions that often spill into the courts.

With judges not free to comment in the media the “State-controlled and other partisan media outlets are abusing this position by reporting on such cases and attacking the person and integrity of a judge in an entirely unethical, contemptuous, and one-sided manner through which key facts of cases, the role of all court officials involved in the justice delivery chain (criminal and civil), and the rules and procedures of court have been completely misunderstood by lay-people and/or maliciously concealed and excluded,” ZLHR said in a statement.

The aim of the sting that began last week, according to ZLHR, is meant “to mislead the public and incite unassuming spectators against the affected judge himself, as well as the entire judiciary”.

“What is of the greatest concern is that such hate speech and false reporting has not only been tolerated, but has in fact been encouraged to continue with complete impunity,” ZLHR said.

“Such blatant attacks on a judicial officer are calculated to — and will — have an immediate and chilling effect on all other judicial officers who feel that they will not be protected where they assert their independence and deliver justice in a professional and fearless manner.”

The offensive on Hungwe will not only affect the parties concerned but would inhibit lawyers from “vigorously and lawfully pursuing their clients’ rights in situations where the media and other actors will maliciously skew facts in order to incite unlawful action or retribution where the outcome of a case does not suit a particular personal or political agenda.

“Thus, an assault on a judicial officer affects not only the independence and integrity of the judiciary, but also that of the legal profession,” the lawyers’ group said.

Comments (1)

We miss your well researched arguments, heads of argument,your tirelessness we still need your court room expertise,leave the alone. Charles just retire from the bench and re-join the bench as the most preffered Advocate at Harare Law Chambers. I had the opportunity to work with him before he was appointed to the bench a hard working Advocate and convincing he would fight till the end not with useless arguments but credible and indeed logical analysis of law and facts you are a rare breed.

MADZIBABA - 17 June 2014

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