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Zimbabwe harming judicial independence, rule of law: rights group

[JURIST] The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) [advocacy website] Monday accused [press release, PDF] the Zimbabwean government of "interfering with the proper functioning of the administration of justice, the role of lawyers and their independence," following a five-day mission in which the rights group found instances in which lawyers representing dissidents were repeatedly harassed, subjected to detention, or beaten by police. The ICJ also cited an incident in which a lawyer representing the Attorney-General of Zimbabwe [JURIST news archive] was physically assaulted by police as an example of the erosion to the rule of law, which the ICJ attributes to the government's failure to hold police responsible for "repeatedly and blatantly [ignoring] court orders."

In May, Zimbabwean police refused to comply with a High Court ruling [JURIST report] requiring police officials to vacate a farm seized by police in March, and responded by ordering more police on to the property. In March, opposition leader and presidential hopeful Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was arrested and beaten [JURIST reports] while under police custody. Police officials have routinely ignored court orders and critics have alleged that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile] has given tacit approval to their actions. South Africa's Mail & Guardian has more.

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