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Zimbabwean High Court Judges Condemn Paradza Arrest - 2003-03-06

Ten High Court judges in Zimbabwe have issued a statement condemning the arrest and detention fellow Judge Benjamin Paradza last month.

In their statement, the ten judges said that while they accept that judges are not above the law and are not immune from arrest, there are procedures laid out in the constitution on how to deal with allegations of judicial misconduct.

The judges cited the section of the constitution that says, among other things, that a judge can only be removed from office after the president, who appoints all judges, sets up a tribunal to look into the matter. The judge would then be suspended until the president, on recommendation of the tribunal, revokes the suspension or dismisses the judge.

Judge Benjamin Paradza is the first sitting judge in Zimbabwe's history to be arrested and charged with corruption. He was detained overnight by the police and was released after paying bail and surrendering his passport.

The statement was issued on Tuesday, but is only now getting attention.

Mordecai Mahlangu, a Harare lawyer, said the constitution was clear on how misconduct by judges is to be dealt with. He called Judge Paradza's arrest a miscarriage of justice that shows even judges are not safe in Zimbabwe any more.

Mr. Mahlangu said that, given the fact that judges are appointed by the president, it is clear Judge Paradza's arrest and detention were cleared "at a very high level."

Another Harare lawyer, Adrian de Bourbon, lamented the fact that only 10 of the 20 High Court judges chose to attack the unconstitutionality of Judge Paradza's arrest and detention.

The judge is accused of trying to influence his fellow judges to rule in favor of a friend and business partner who is being charged with murder. It is alleged that Judge Paradza phoned three other judges asking them to release his business partner's passport, which is being held by the government to enable him to travel overseas for their business.

The judge is scheduled to appear in court later this month.