HARARE - Zimbabwe’s lawyers Tuesday took to the streets and petitioned the government complaining over what they called deteriorating rule of law, as the High Court delivered a bail ruling on pastor-cum-activist Evan Mawarire.
Lawyers presented a petition to the country’s chief justice Luke Malaba’s office. One of the lawyers is Fadzayi Mahere.
“The lawyers are marching in support of human rights and restoration of constitutional freedoms. And we do not want the military on the streets or in civilian life. Or in the courts. It is a march in support of fair trial,” said Mahere.
Among the lawyers' complaints is the courts’ refusal to grant bail to more than 1,000 civilians arrested during this month’s protests over a fuel hike. They say courts are “fast tracking” trials of the protesters before they get all materials they want to defend themselves.
A few protesters, like pastor Evan Mawarire, face subversion charges, he was granted $2,000 bail Tuesday at the High Court.
Rights groups have complained that security forces have been brutal in handling the protesters, with cases of rape and assaults flooding the media.
But Tuesday, Zimbabwe police spokesperson Charity Charamba denied charges of widespread abuse.
“The law is clear, for each and every offense there should be redress or a penalty, hence our passionate appeal to members of the public to report. Reports in some sections of the media that those who have reported are being bullied and labeled are not correct," said Charamba. "Only one case of alleged sexual abuse was recorded. Investigations are already in progress. It is not in the culture of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to sweep cases under the carpet ... ”
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration had not taken reports of human rights abuses by the security forces seriously.
“So apart from raising this issue with SADC (Southern African Development Community,) we want this issue to be addressed in the context of the international community helping us. These are clear cases of unleashing our military on unarmed civilians. Citizens are defenseless obviously what we want is the intervention of the international community to help us in any manner possible to protect citizens so that there is a restoration of civilian authority in the country,” he said.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have asked Mnangagwa to order soldiers to go back to barracks. They have been assisting police maintain law and order since the protests turned violent two weeks ago.