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SALC slams judiciary

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THE Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) has castigated the country’s judiciary, saying it should respect the role of lawyers.

REPORT BY STAFF REPORTER

In a statement yesterday, SALC said the judiciary failed to uphold basic United Nations principles on the role of lawyers that stipulate that they should not be identified with their clients or clients’ causes.

The statements come after High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu on Tuesday ordered the Attorney-General’s Office to take appropriate action against MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s lawyers for allegedly making disparaging remarks against the judiciary.

SALC director Nicole Fritz said they were alarmed by Justice Bhunu’s order that lawyers acting for Tsvangirai be subjected to punitive action by the Attorney-General and the prosecuting authority.

She said Justice Bhunu’s ire had been provoked by Tsvangirai’s statements that the “judiciary is not independent of the Executive, and politically, from Zanu PF”.

“According to Justice Bhunu, these statements amount to an attack on the dignity and integrity of the judiciary. Bhunu’s order appears calculated to intimidate lawyers and ensure those who find themselves in opposition to the new Zimbabwean government will battle to find legal representation despite constitutional entitlements,” said SALC.

“Judge Bhunu makes this outrageous punitive order directed at the lawyers ostensibly to protect the integrity of the judiciary.

“But there can be no surer way of bringing the courts into disrepute than by having a judge issue orders in clear contravention of the uniformly recognised and upheld principles protecting the legal profession.”

According to SALC, United Nations basic principles on the role of lawyers stipulates that lawyers should not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions, and that they shall enjoy civil and penal immunity for relevant statements made in good faith in written or oral pleadings or in their professional appearances before a court.

Fritz called upon Justice Bhunu to rescind his order and for the judiciary in Zimbabwe to respect the role of lawyers.

Tsvangirai has since filed a notice of appeal against Justice Bhunu’s ruling.

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