Zimbabwe: Judicial harassment faced by human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama

17/02/2012
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) about the judicial harassment faced by human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama, who represented several victims of State-sponsored abduction and torture in 2009.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Zimbabwe.

New information:

According to the information received, on February 15, 2012, Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba reserved judgement of an appeal filed by Attorney General (AG) Johannes Tomana requesting the Supreme Court to allow a late appeal[1] by his office against the acquittal of Mr. Alec Muchadehama and Ms. Constance Gambara, a clerk to High Court Judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, on charges of “contempt of court” under Section 182 (1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23).

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Alec Muchadehama’s acquittal refers to charges that were filed against him in 2009 (See background information), and expresses its deep concern about the judicial harassment faced by Mr. Alec Muchadehama since 2009, and fears that it merely aims at sanctioning his human rights activities. Further, the Observatory urges Zimbabwe authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders.

Background information

On May 6, 2009, Mr. Alec Muchadehama, who represented several victims of State-sponsored abduction and torture, including Ms. Jestina Mukoko, Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project - ZPP) and board member of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, and Mr. Andrison Manyere, freelance journalist, was arrested by officers of the Law and Order Section of the police at the Rotten Row Magistrates Court and accused of “contempt of court”, after having reportedly secured the “unlawful release” on bail of Mr. Manyere and two members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who had been granted bail by High Court Judge Justice Charles Hungwe on April 9, 2009, following their abduction by State security agents in 2008[2].

The State alleged that Mr. Alec Muchadehama “unlawfully and intentionally impaired the dignity, reputation or authority of a court or realising that there was real risk or possibility of impairing the dignity, reputation or authority of a court” by causing the release of the three abductees while he was aware of Justice Bhunu’s judgment in which he granted the State leave to appeal against an earlier bail order by Justice Charles Hungwe.

On May 15, 2009, he was released on bail after payment of 100 USD (approximately 69,66 euros). Throughout the proceedings, the trial was adjourned, postponed and restarted several times.

On December 10, 2009, Mr. Muchadehama was finally acquitted by the Harare Rotten Row Magistrates Court, as the prosecutors failed to prove the essential elements of the crime, notably as the State did not file its appeal against Justice Hungwe’s order granting bail to Mr. Manyere and the two MDC officials.

In 2010, High Court Judge Justice Joseph Musakwa dismissed the AG’s chamber application for leave to appeal against the Magistrates Court’s acquittal of Mr. Muchadehama and Ms. Gambara. Though the AG failed to appeal against Justice Musakwa’s ruling on time, it filed an application for late noting of the appeal.

Actions required:

Please write to the authorities of Zimbabwe urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Alec Muchadehama, as well as of all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe;

ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Alec Muchadehama as well as against all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as above-mentioned Article 12.2 (“the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure);

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Zimbabwe.

Addresses:

· President of Zimbabwe, Mr. Robert G. Mugabe, Office of the President, Private Bag 7700, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 708 211 / + 263.4.70.38.58;

· Mr. Khembo Mohadi, co-Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 11th Floor Mukwati Building, Private Bag 7703, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 726 716;

· Mr. Giles Mutsekwa, co-Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 11th Floor Mukwati Building, Private Bag 7703, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 726 716;

· Mr. Patrick Chinamasa, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Fax: + 263 4 77 29 99 / +263 4 252 155;

· Mr. Augustine Chihuri, Commissioner General, Police Headquarters, P.O. Box 8807, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 253 212 / 728 768 / 726 084;

· Mr. Justice Johannes Tomana, Attorney-General, Office of the Attorney, PO Box 7714, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax: + 263 4 77 32 47;

· Mrs. Chanetsa, Office of the Ombudsman Fax: + 263 4 70 41 19;

· H.E. Mr. James Manzou, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin William Barbey 27, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 758 30 44, Email: zimbabwemission@bluewin.ch;

· Embassy of Zimbabwe in Brussels, 11 SQ Josephine Charlotte, 1200 Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 96 05 / + 32 2 775 65 10, Email: zimbrussels@skynet.be.

Please also write to the embassies of Zimbabwe in your respective country.

***

Paris-Geneva, February 17, 2012.

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

Email : Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel et fax FIDH : + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / 33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel et fax OMCT : +41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

[1] Roderick Tokwe, a Prosecutor handling the case at the time Justice Musakwa dismissed the AG’s application for leave to appeal, stated in the Supreme Court application that he failed to file the appeal on time partly because he was fighting a messy divorce.

[2] See Observatory Annual Report 2010.

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