Police undermining rule of law - Lawyers

Muchineripi and Coltart were released on bail yesterday.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has red flagged what it called a systemic clampdown on the legal profession by the police.

The rights lobby group’s concerns follow the arrest of their members Tapiwa Muchineripi and Douglas Coltart, and were charged with defeating or obstructing the course of justice on Monday.

“ZLHR is extremely concerned about the arrest of legal practitioners waged by Zimbabwean authorities, who arrested two human rights lawyers and charged them for allegedly defeating or obstructing the course of justice, while executing their professional duties,” ZLHR said in a statement.

In a communique released yesterday police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said Muchineripi and Coltart obstructed police officers thereby contravening section 184 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

This came after the duo supposedly refused to let the authorities interview opposition activists Womberaiishe Nhende and Sanele Mukhuhlani, who are said to be victims of suspected kidnapping and are currently admitted at a local medical facility.

“This is a deliberate and coordinated effort by ZRP officers to impede legal practitioners from undertaking their professional duties. This conduct by ZRP officers is a clear departure from the Constitution, which enshrines the right of citizens to be represented by legal practitioners of their choice and the right by lawyers to practice their trade,” said ZLHR.

Muchineripi and Coltart were released on bail yesterday.

Their detention comes at the back of a brutal arrest of another lawyer Kudzai Kadzere who was bashed by the police and sustained a broken arm after he had responded to a call to represent opposition members recently.

Meanwhile, President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month came under fire after he described lawyers, in particular those of the ZLHR, as “counter revolutionaries” in utterances that critics said were confirmation that the rule of law was under threat.

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