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Zimbabwe ConCourt: Dreaded Detention Law Unconstitutional

FILE: A group of 46 social and human rights activists, led by Munyaradzi Gwisai is alleged to have organized a meeting, appear in court in Harare, February 23, 2011

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a section of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act that gave prosecutors the power to overrule judges and magistrates when they had freed suspects on bail.

The full bench of the Constitutional Court ruled that Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act violated the constitutional rights of suspects who would have been freed on bail.

The Act allowed prosecutors to invoke the section overriding decisions of judges and magistrate that would result in suspects, who would have been granted bail, to remain behind bars for at least seven days to give the state a chance to appeal the judges’ decision.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said the full bench of the Constitutional Court was unanimous in declaring the section unconstitutional.

The ruling followed an application filed Movement for Democratic Change activist Fanuel Kamurendo and three others following their arrest in 2013 for allegedly tearing posters in Chitungwiza bearing the faces of President Robert Mugabe and the late Retired Army General Solomon Mujuru.

One of the applicants’ lawyers, Kudzayi Kadzere of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, confirmed the court’s ruling describing it as “landmark” judgement.

Kadzere said the effect of the ruling is that from Wednesday no suspects would continue to be incarcerated if they are freed by the courts.

Morgan Komichi, the deputy chairperson of the MDC formation led by former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said his party welcomed the court’s decision to strike the section off the country’s statutes saying that several members of his party have fallen victim to the unconstitutional provision of the law.

Komichi urged judges to continue giving rulings that promote human rights, adding that President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF government were not backing down on their “retrogressive agenda” against the opposition and human rights defenders.

Political analyst and director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, Pedzisai Ruhanya, said the move would promote the separation of powers in the country.

Kamurendo and others filed a Constitutional Court application challenging the section of the law following their over-detention on allegations of tearing down campaign posters bearing the faces of Mr. Mugabe and the late retired army general Solomon Mujuru at the Zanu PF office in Chitungwiza ahead of the constitutional referendum held in 2013.

Kamurendo and his colleagues were later acquitted of those charges by the courts.

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