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Zimbabwe Court Strikes Down Govt Edict Prohibiting Protests

FILE: Zimbabweans hold placards during a protest against President Robert Mugabe government's handling of the economy in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 3, 2016.

Zimbabwe's High Court has struck down the government's two-week ban on demonstrations.

The ban was imposed as anti-government protests were gaining momentum.

The ban was announced last Thursday, a day before opposition parties were to hold an anti-government demonstration in the capital.

But High Court Justice Priscilla Chigumba ruled Wednesday that the government's ban was "invalid" because it was not done according to procedure.

She issued the ruling despite remarks from President Robert Mugabe lambasting judges who have been allowing Zimbabweans to protest against the 92-year-old president's leadership.

Politician Tendai Biti, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who represented the opposition in court, said Mr. Mugabe's statements were not appropriate.

"He has no right to make those statements. The president's statement's statements are unconstitutional. The first function of the president is to uphold the constitution and the bill of rights. So if the president fails in that function he must resign or be impeached."

Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have added their concern to the statement by President Mugabe attacking the granting of protests by Zimbabwean judges.

Here is Human Rights Watch's Dewa Mavhinga a senior researcher for southern Africa:

"President Robert Mugabe's statements undermine Zimbabwe's international law obligations to respect due process and judicial independence which are guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Zimbabweans have a right to peaceful protests and to express their views freely and judges should not be constrained in enforcing those rights."

It was not immediately known if the opposition will resume protests, which Mr. Mugabe says are alien and lead to violence in Zimbabwe.

A legal challenge was mounted by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights attorneys Biti and Dzimbabwe Chimbga on behalf of the National Electoral Reform Agenda, DARE, vendors leader Sten Zvorwadza and Combined Harare Residents Trust.