Abductees can still sue — Legal Experts

THE deal between the Attorney-General (AG)’s office and defence lawyers for political detainees to drop cases against the state in exchange for bail will not stop the accused from suing the government or the people responsible for their abductions and torture, legal experts said yesterday.


The pact, which saw the release of several human rights and MDC activists, among them Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko, was made at a meeting held last Friday between senior officials from the AG’s office and defence lawyers representing the activists.

According to Veritas, a group of lawyers, the state’s condition for withdrawal of all defence applications currently pending in the High Court and the Supreme Court was a limited one.

The lawyers said:  “It does not prevent future legal action by the abductees against the state and the state agents responsible for their abduction, unlawful detention and torture.”

Veritas said the condition still does not stop the detainees from pressing for the prosecution of those individual state agents responsible for their torture.

Charles Kwaramba, a lawyer representing some of the detainees, said while defence lawyers would withdraw some of the court challenges, they will press ahead with constitutional challenges against the state on the abduction and illegal detention of their clients.

“We are going to withdraw some of the cases but we are proceeding with cases dealing with issues of the legality of the abduction, torture and forced disappearance of our clients,” Kwaramba said.  

He said they wanted the Supreme Court to decide on the legality of the behaviour of the police and state agents in the abduction, detention and torture of their clients.  

Otto Saki, a lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said there would be no withdrawal of cases.

“We can’t really say there was a deal on the withdrawal of cases against the state in exchange for bail as not all the detainees had cases against the state and there is going to be no withdrawal of any case,”Saki said.

The state had last week suggested that the bail figure be put at US$2 000 per person, separate surety of US$60 000 per person, surrendering travel documents and title deeds to property worth at least US$20 000 and reporting twice weekly to the police.

However, the defence lawyers argued that the amounts were too high and that not everyone had travel documents or title deeds.  

Magistrates who granted the detainees bail eventually dropped the demand for surety and set bail at US$600 each plus the surrender of travel documents, if any, security or title deeds of at least US$20 000 value, and reporting to police on Monday and Friday.

The issue of 19 missing persons from the list of 42 people who were abducted and detained by alleged state agents since last October was also discussed at the Friday meeting and the state indicated that it was willing to release the missing persons.

The state insisted that defence lawyers should drop cases against the state.

BY LUCIA MAKAMURE