Zimbabwe Drops Charges Against Human Rights Lawyers

The lawyers were accused of obstructing justice while representing their clients who were allegedly abducted and tortured by state agents

by Victor Adetimilehin

Zimbabwean prosecutors have withdrawn charges against two human rights lawyers who were arrested while attending to their clients at a hospital last year.

Douglas Coltart and Tapiwa Muchineripi were facing charges of defeating the course of justice after blocking police from interviewing Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) GlenNorah councillor Womberaiishe Nhende who was hospitalised at Parktown hospital in Harare following his alleged abduction and torture by suspected state agents.

The lawyers, who are members of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), had insisted that their arrest was unlawful and that they were exercising their professional duties.

On Friday, the State conceded that the charges against the two did not warrant a criminal offense and decided to drop the case.


A direct attack on the legal profession

Muchineripi said that he was happy justice had been served.

“I am elated and I am grateful to the Almighty God and our ZLHR legal team led by Mukoma Aleck Muchadehama for spiritedly fighting for me and my colleague Doug Coltart.

“Justice has been done. We are not criminals but hard-working human rights lawyers fighting for our diverse clients’ rights and the upholding of the rule of law and constitutionalism,” Muchineripi said.

Coltart added that the police officers who arrested them were just overzealous and that their actions were a direct attack on the legal profession.

“The accused told the police why they were there. Even the complainant or witness is entitled to legal representation,” Coltart said.


A pattern of abductions and torture

Nhende was allegedly abducted, drugged, and tortured together with his colleague Sanele Mukhulane before they were dumped while naked in Mapinga, Mashonaland West province.

The two councilors are among several opposition and civil society activists who have reported cases of abduction and torture by suspected state agents in recent years.

The Zimbabwean government has denied any involvement in the abductions and torture and has blamed them on a third force or rogue elements.

However, human rights groups and the international community have condemned human rights violations and called for an end to the impunity and accountability for the perpetrators.

The withdrawal of charges against human rights lawyers is seen as a rare victory for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Zimbabwe.

The country has been facing a political and economic crisis that has worsened the living conditions of millions of people.

The opposition and civil society have accused the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa of using repressive measures to silence dissent and stifle democratic space.

The government has maintained that it is committed to implementing political and economic reforms and engaging with all stakeholders to address the challenges facing the nation.

The human rights lawyers have vowed to continue their work of defending the rights of their clients and the people of Zimbabwe.

They have also expressed their hope that justice and democracy will prevail in the country.

Source: New Zimbabwe


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