ED has exposed us to violence: Rights lawyers 

Source: ED has exposed us to violence: Rights lawyers –Newsday Zimbabwe

During the launch of Lawyers for Economic Development at State House in Harare last week, Mnangagwa questioned the patriotism of the country’s human rights lawyers.

THE Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) says President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent blatant attack on human rights lawyers may expose them to violence by political party fanatics.

During the launch of Lawyers for Economic Development at State House in Harare last week, Mnangagwa questioned the patriotism of the country’s human rights lawyers.

He singled out the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) as “counter revolutionaries”.

The Forum raised concern over Mnangagwa’s statement with the general elections around the corner.

“The Forum remains concerned that the President’s utterances can inflame violence against human rights lawyers and pro-democracy groups, especially ahead of the August 23 polls,” the Forum said in a statement.

“The Forum cautions the President and all political leaders for making such unsubstantiated remarks as they incite hate and violence against lawyers. An illustration of this can be drawn from the recent brutal attacks on human rights lawyers Obey Shava and Chamunorwa Chingwe, both members of ZLHR who were assaulted by unknown assailants masquerading as clients seeking legal representation.

“At this juncture, the Forum reiterates Article 18 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers which espouses that ‘a lawyer should not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as they discharge their functions’. As such, being a human rights lawyer is not a criminal offence that warrants hate speech.”

The Forum implored government to stop harassing lawyers, including making divisive utterances on national platforms which do not build the nation.

“Recognise that the Constitution of Zimbabwe espouses that participatory democracy is centred around citizens being able to hold public officials to account without fear: Acknowledge that patriotic citizens are not mandated to always agree with the actions of the government, but in the ‘moments of differences’ citizens should be able to fearlessly discharge their freedom of expression,” the Forum said.

Calling on government to ensure that lawyers freely and independently practise law, the organisation added: “Interference through making unfounded, biased and untrue statements about human rights lawyers doing their work severely compromises the universal right to effective legal representation, the proper functioning of the rule of law, and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

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