Lawyers march against police brutality in Zimbabwe

By John Cassim

HARARE, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean lawyers marched against police brutality in Harare, following the assault of a top lawyer at the city’s central police station.

Police inside the station assaulted Doug Coltart while he was representing a teachers’ union leader, Obert Masaraure, who was arrested for taking part in a protest last week.

Nearly 200 lawyers clad in black robes, white barrister bands and bandages on their heads, crowded Harare High Court displaying placards that denounced police brutal actions.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Director Rose Hanzi said 2019 was the worst in terms of police human rights violations on lawyers.

“We are marching against the police brutality as well as to remind the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner General of the Police of their obligations in terms of the Constitution and international human rights instruments,” Hanzi told Anadolu Agency.

Hanzi added that lawyers were demanding the implementation of the Constitution by establishing an independent complaints mechanism that should receive complaints of violations perpetrated by state security apparatus.

Coltart was among lawyers who marched Thursday and said: “We are lawyers and not criminals, all we demand is respect of our profession especially during the course of our duties. Is this too much to ask?,” said Coltart.

Lawyers described 2019 as the worst in terms of human rights violations by police, starting with the death of at least 10 people in January during an anti-fuel price increase demonstration.

Subsequently Zimbabweans witnessed several clashes where protests by vendors, opposition activists, doctors, teachers and government workers were violently thwarted by armed police, leading to many injuries.

In October, Harare vendor Hilton Tafadzwa Tamangani died in police custody following a police beating while in custody.

For leading a series of protests by doctors, Dr Peter Magombeyi was abducted by suspected state security and was released only after being tortured.

Magombeyi was placed in police custody until a High Court order was sought to allow him access to foreign treatment.
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