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Zimbabwe Lawyers Protest State Harassment

More than 100 lawyers gathered at the Harare Gardens and marched to parliament Thursday delivering copies of a petition complaining about harassment by state authorities while executing their duties.

From parliament, the legal practitioners marched to the Supreme Court, offices of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General before going to the High Court.

Petitions were also sent to the offices of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Deputy chairman of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Precious Chakasikwa, said the legal practitioners are being harassed by some sections of the unity government.

Chakasikwa said most cases of harassment of lawyers are usually recorded during the election period.

"We have not seen any improvement on the ground from the various petitions that we've presented and the various calls that we've made,” said Chakasikwa, who added that legal practitioners now fear for the worst as elections draw near.

Deputy secretary of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, Wilbert Mandinde, concurred nothing that it has "become common to hear of increasing attacks against members of the legal profession."

The director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Irene Petras, said the government has not taken any action on complaints that have in the past been brought to its attention.

"We feel that the lawyers get targeted just to try and intimidate them from doing their human rights work,” said Petras.

The lawyers urged parliament to ratify all international treaties guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary.

They also urged the judiciary to increase cooperation and engagement between lawyers and judges to ensure the smooth operation of the justice system.

The march, organized by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, was held in line with the International Human Rights Day set to be commemorated worldwide on next Monday.