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Zimbabwe Court Rejects Ban on Protests

Tendai Biti, (R), opposition leader and member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, and Dzimbabwe Chibga from the rights group talk to reporters outside the High Court in Harare, Zimbabwe, September 2016. The two represented Zimbabwean opposition parties in court. (S. Mhofu/VOA)

Zimbabwe's High Court has struck down the government's two-week ban on demonstrations. The ban was announced last Thursday, a day before opposition parties were to hold an anti-government protest in the capital.

But High Court Justice Priscilla Chigumba ruled Wednesday that the government's ban was "invalid" because it was not done according to procedure.

Chigumba issued the ruling despite remarks from President Robert Mugabe lambasting judges who allow Zimbabweans to protest against the 92-year-old president's leadership.

Politician Tendai Biti, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who represented the opposition in court, said Mugabe's statements were inappropriate.

"The president's statements are unconstitutional,” Biti said. “The first function of the president is to uphold the constitution and the bill of rights. So, if the president fails in that function, he must resign or be impeached."

Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also have spoken out against the ban.

"President Robert Mugabe's statements undermine Zimbabwe's international law obligations to respect due process and judicial independence,” said Dewa Mavhinga of Human Rights Watch. “Zimbabweans have a right to peaceful protests and to express their views freely, and judges should not be constrained in enforcing those rights."

It was not immediately known if the opposition will resume protests, which Mugabe says lead to violence in Zimbabwe.