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Another Zimbabwe Judge Resigns - 2001-08-01

In Zimbabwe, another judge has abruptly resigned from the country's second highest court. Four judges, including the most senior judge in the country, have resigned so far this year.

Forty-nine-year-old high court judge Michael Gillespie gave no official reason for deciding to retire at the end of August, 15 years before the minimum retirement age. But he said in his resignation letter to President Robert Mugabe: "I very deeply regret the circumstances which constrain me to conclude that I can no longer continue to hold this office."

In March, Supreme Court Chief Justice Anton Gubbay was forced out, and two high court judges announced their resignations soon after.

Colleagues of Judge Gillespie say he has become what they call "deeply disillusioned" by the way the judiciary and the law are being treated in Zimbabwe.

State pressure on the judiciary began last year, when the government defied court rulings that declared farm invasions illegal. The invasions were carried out by militants loyal to President Mugabe.

In another decision that aroused the displeasure of the Mugabe government, the supreme court ruled that the government's confiscation of commercial farms without compensation was illegal. This ruling was followed by an invasion of the supreme court itself, with militants storming the courtrooms and calling for the immediate expulsion of judges.

The government has also lost in the high court, the country's second highest court, which has ordered re-runs of three results of last year's parliamentary elections because of violence.

President Mugabe has appointed new high court judges. He has also added three judges to the supreme court, bringing the total to eight. All the new appointees are considered loyal to the government.

Human rights groups and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change accuse Mr. Mugabe of trying to pack the courts so that there will no longer be any judicial opposition to his government's decisions.