Lawyers appeal to Canada over Mugabe’s ‘genocide’

Gift Phiri

A ZIMBABWEAN and a Canadian lawyer this week asked the Canadian government to approve a genocide indictment against President Robert Mugabe, a case that could be the first real test of Canada&#821

7;s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.


Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba and Amir Attaran, a University of Ottawa law professor, used the Act to craft a wide-ranging indictment that accuses Mugabe of committing genocide against his opponents with the massacre of about 20 000 people in the early 1980s during counter-insurgency operations in Matabeleland.


But it will be applied only if Justice minister and Attorney-General Irwin Cotler approves it.


Shumba, who fled the country to South Africa after being tortured by state security agents, said he was optimistic that the Canadian government would give the indictment the legal force it needs, pointing to the recent appointment of House of Commons backbencher Cotler as Justice minister and Attorney-General of Canada.Shumba said Cotler strongly supported them when they started the move to indict Mugabe.


“We think he is the right man to deal with the issue now,” Shumba said.

Cotler, an international human rights lawyer, is a former special adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the International Criminal Court and has served as counsel to former prisoners of conscience in the former Soviet Union, South Africa and Asia.


Shumba was optimistic that Cotler would expedite their case by granting the Canadian government’s consent that they require before they can apply for Mugabe’s arrest warrant.