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Zimbabwe's Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo
"We disagree on the basis of the facts"
 real 28k

Lord Goldsmith QC
"We were very unhappy with what we saw - the widespread intimidation of judges "
 real 56k

Monday, 23 April, 2001, 20:10 GMT 21:10 UK
Zimbabwe rejects lawyers' criticism
President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe is accused of intimidating the judiciary
The authorities in Zimbabwe have condemned a report by a senior delegation of international lawyers who said democracy and the rule of law in the country were "in the gravest peril".

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said in a BBC interview that the group had failed to canvass a diverse spectrum of opinions in the country.

He said that during his own meeting with the group, they had made preposterous claims about the land dispute in Zimbabwe.

The week-long visit by the group followed incidents of intimidation of members of the Zimbabwean judiciary.


The events of the past 12 months have put the rule of law in Zimbabwe in the gravest peril

IBA report
The panel of judges and lawyers from the International Bar Association (IBA) said on Monday the rule of law in Zimbabwe has been badly undermined over the past year with the Government implicated in intimidating judges and lawyers.

President Robert Mugabe is coming under increasing international pressure over his handling of land reform and the treatment of the independent media.

Law ignored

The report accuses President Mugabe of failing to enforce judicial rulings ordering the occupiers of white-owned farms to get off the land.

Mr Moyo said that during his own meeting with the group, they had made preposterous claims about the land dispute in Zimbabwe.

Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay
Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay: Put under pressure to resign
The IBA says that the killings and assaults on landowners may not have happened if court orders had been implemented.

The report says that the government's attitude "creates a culture of lawlessness which cannot be appropriate in a democratic society".

The damning report comes after a fact-finding mission that included meetings with President Mugabe and the former chief justice Anthony Gubbay.

Mr Gubbay recently resigned from his post following pressure from the government.

Intimidation

Over the past year the Supreme Court made several rulings against the government on the question of land reform and electoral laws which provoked the wrath of the authorities.

The IBA report says that the attempts "to obtain the resignation of a judge whose decisions against the government were found unpalatable as a serious breach of the independence of the judiciary".

Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said that the country is committed to the rule of law and the maintenance of an independent judiciary.

He also said that Mr Gubbay resigned voluntarily.

Amongst the panel that wrote the report were South African human rights lawyer George Bizos and former Indian Chief Justice Aziz Ahmadi.

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See also:

23 Apr 01 | Africa
Mugabe sued for election violence
20 Mar 01 | Africa
Commonwealth presses Mugabe
09 Mar 01 | Africa
Mugabe man named top judge
26 Apr 00 | Africa
Who owns the land?
21 Dec 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe land seizures 'illegal'
28 Jan 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe newspaper bombed
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