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Lawyers deplore court delays

Mthulisi Mathuthu

ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has deplored delays in the handing down of judgements in the courts and urged the judiciary to rectify the problem in line with international law.

The statement came after the High Court yesterday failed again to rule on a bail application by opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. He is due to appear in court today when a ruling is expected.

The ZLHR said the delays had been prevalent in “cases that are considered to be sensitive or of public interest or politically-related or of a constitutional nature”.

The ZLHR said the highest profile case was the delay by High Court judge, Justice Susan Mavangira in making a ruling in Tsvangirai’s bail application.

“Argument on the application only commenced on 11 June after Tsvangirai had already been detained in custody for five nights,” the lawyers said.

“Argument concluded on 13 June when the judge reserved judgement. Her judgement has not yet been handed down six days later, while Tsvangirai remains in custody. This delay is effectively a remand in custody,” the lawyers group said yesterday.

The United States government has already classified Tsvangirai as a victim of political intolerance and urged the government to release him. It dismissed charges against him as trumped up.

The ZLHR also blamed the delays on understaffing and low-morale among staff.

“Whilst ZLHR appreciates the constraints under which members of the judiciary and magistrates are operating, it agrees with the concerns of lawyers and the public as the consumers of justice that a deliberate effort has to be made by the judiciary to hand down judgements efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness,” the group said.

The ZLHR also called on law enforcement agents and the judiciary to carry out their duties mindful of the dictates of international covenants and the constitution of Zimbabwe which outlaws human rights violations.

Particularly, it drew the attention of the judiciary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee the rights of detainees.

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