Zimbabwe: charges against lawyer Mordecai Mahlangu must immediately be dropped
The ICJ expresses its serious concern at the unlawful detention and prosecution of Mordecai Mahlangu, a prominent human rights and media lawyer from Zimbabwe.
The ICJ calls for the charges against him to be unconditionally and immediately dropped.
Mordecai Mahlangu was reportedly arrested and detained on 2 November 2009 on alleged grounds of ‘obstructing the course of justice’ over a letter he wrote to the Attorney General in connection with a case involving Roy Bennett, the Treasurer General of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Mordecai Mahlangu, acting as legal counsel for Peter Hitschmann, a key witness in that case, had addressed the letter to the Attorney General in protest at a subpoena issued to his client to testify against Roy Bennett.
The protest was based on the consideration that Peter Hitschmann had allegedly been subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting false submissions in order to secure Mr. Bennett’s conviction.
The ICJ believes that the letter sent by Mordecai Mahlangu was clearly a legitimate exercise of his functions and responsibilities as lawyer, in line with internationally recognized professional standards of conduct.
He was also acting to defend the human rights of his client, in connection with alleged serious human rights violations involving torture. The ICJ considers his detention to constitute an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and the charges against him an attack against the legitimate exercise of his professional functions as a lawyer.
The ICJ condemns this unlawful conduct of Zimbabwean law enforcement officers, which appears consistent with an ongoing pattern and practice in Zimbabwe of undermining the rights and professional obligations of lawyers to defend their clients. It also undermines the rights of those clients to a fair trial.
Such practices violate the Zimbabwean Bill of Rights as well as international law and standards on the right to a fair trial and the role of the legal profession. The Government of Zimbabwe is under an obligation to ensure that lawyers
carry out their professional duties without fear, intimidation, obstruction, harassment, persecution or unwarranted interference.
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