Yali Profile : Human rights defender wants universal access to justice

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Award winning lawyer and human rights activist Kennedy Masiye is best remembered as the attorney that was assaulted by police in his attempt to protect the rights of journalist cum activist, Itai Dzamara barely six months ago.

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Since Dzamara’s abduction and disappearance on March 9, Kennedy and other human rights defenders have been searching for clues on his whereabouts but also working on available legal instruments to compel the government of Zimbabwe to act.

It is in recognition of his courage and leadership abilities that Kennedy took the decision to participate in a program that connects Africans as well as look beyond the continent for solutions. He is one of the 30 participants from Zimbabwe to take part in the second year of the Mandela Washington Fellowship where he sees himself “benefiting a lot and learning best practices from the best minds in the world.”

During his six-week fellowship Kennedy will be stationed at Rutgers University in New Jersey where he expects to “network with colleagues from other countries and universities through exchanging ideas and experiences.”

The efforts to protect the rights of Dzamara is just but one of many cases the young legal expert has been exposed to in his five year career with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Kennedy has been making significant strides in his legal and advocacy work tackling issues of social change and service delivery in a bid to improve the humane conditions of the country. Kennedy has also been working on the internal displacements issue of the Tokwe Mukosi community that was moved to Chingwizi camp and having being severely assaulted by armed forces while defending the rights of his client, Itai Dzamara.

Kennedy’s efforts have seen him excelling in litigating and winning several cases in which he fearlessly defended human rights defenders who would have been arbitrarily arrested and detained.

His hard work and commitment has earned him the 2014 Law Society of Zimbabwe Young Human rights lawyer of the year award after having been nominated in two consecutive years from the year 2012. He has also been recognized and conferred with the ‘Giraffe Hero’ award by the Giraffe Heroes Zimbabwe, for standing tall on behalf of the silent majority despite the threats that were directed at their persons in the struggle for democracy and a just society.

Upon his return from the fellowship Kennedy hopes to “implement my acquired knowledge and skills and increasing access to justice to more communities. He graduated from the University of Zimbabwe in the year 2010 with a Bachelor of Laws degree.