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Lawyers slam lack of police protection

Blessing Zulu

POLICE constable Ezekiel Mutumwa who assaulted human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa at Borrowdale Police Station last month has been suspended from the police force on a separate charge, the Zim

babwe Independent has learnt.

Mutumwa faces a charge of soliciting a bribe from a motorist last month. He was trapped by fellow police officers which led to his suspension.

A police officer at Borrowdale Police Station confirmed that Mutumwa had been suspended.

“Mutumwa is currently on suspension and is reporting at Chikurubi Police Station,” he said.

Mutumwa allegedly assaulted Mtetwa last month after an incident in which the lawyer nearly lost her vehicle to hijackers. Mtetwa said police refused to pursue the would-be carjackers but instead turned on her, accusing her of being drunk.

After the assault, police commissioner Augustine Chihuri called Mtetwa to a meeting at which he assured her that he would investigate the assault. To date no assault charges have been preferred against Mutumwa.

Following the assault, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) expressed grave concern at the continued threats, harassment and intimidation of lawyers in the country.

It urged the responsible authorities to protect lawyers.

The human rights group chronicled incidents of assault and harassment of lawyers this year alone.

The list includes Gabriel Shumba who in January this year was arbitrarily arrested, detained and tortured while in police custody. He now lives outside the country.

ZLHR said judges had also been on the receiving end of police harassment.

“In an unprecedented move in the history of the legal profession in Zimbabwe, Justice Benjamin Paradza was arrested while in the High Court Chambers and detained before being placed on remand illegally. The Supreme Court subsequently ruled on September 16 that the arrest of Justice Paradza had been wrongful,” the statement said.

On March 18 Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe legal advisor Gugulethu Moyo was assaulted by Jocelyn Chiwenga, wife of army commander General Constantine Chiwenga, in Glen Norah Police Station.

Another human rights lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, was assaulted at the same police station where he had gone to represent his client.

ZLHR has drawn the attention of the police to United Nations principles on the role of lawyers which state that “where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their function, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities”. It says it is “gravely concerned at the continuation of threats, harassment and intimidation of lawyers, particularly those handling human rights cases”.

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