Freedom Under Law notes with grave concern reports of the arrest of Zimbabwean lawyers Tapiwa Muchineripi and Douglas Coltart. The two lawyers were reportedly arrested at a hospital and charged with obstructing the course of justice while representing members of the official opposition party in Zimbabwe, who had been abducted and tortured and were receiving medical care.
This treatment of lawyers appears to be a clear attempt at intimidation and harassment and is totally inconsistent with international standards for the treatment of lawyers. Lawyers must be free to carry out their functions without fear of reprisal, and the Zimbabwean state is obliged to protect lawyers against any form of retaliation, intimidation, or harassment.
The role of the legal profession is vital to the rule of law. Lawyers must be free to represent their clients independent and fearlessly, without being subjected to intimidation and interference in their work. We strongly condemn any attempts to undermine the ability of the arrested lawyers to represent their clients as an attack on the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
We call on the relevant Zimbabwean authorities to cease all actions which are calculated to harass and intimidate lawyers in the fulfilment of their duties to represent their clients.
Freedom Under Law has also written to the Legal Practice Council (letter attached) urging it to show solidarity with this egregious attack on the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
We welcome the Johannesburg Society of Advocates’ statement condemning the “arrest, detention, intimidation and harassment” of the Coltart and Muchineripi.