Human rights watchdogs condemn brutal attack on top Zim lawyer, send solidarity messages

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By Mary Taruvinga

LAWYERS across the continent have condemned the brutal attack on top Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Obey Shava by unidentified assailants on Wednesday.

Shava, a founding partner with Shava Law Chambers (Rights and Business Centre) and a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), was assaulted by four unidentified men, who accosted him after masquerading as potential clients in desperate need of legal assistance.

According to ZLHR, before the assault, the four men presented themselves at Shava Law Chambers and completed the formalities for new clients.

During that time, Shava was attending to another case at Mbare Police Station.

“Shava reportedly received calls from these people, who were pretending to be potential clients needing legal assistance and wanted to meet him. They advised him that they could not wait for him to attend to them the next day. Shava then met the so-called potential clients – who were travelling in a Mercedes Benz vehicle with no registration number plates and a Range Rover,” said ZLHR in a statement.

Upon meeting them, the four unidentified men briefly presented their so-called case and, without provocation, assaulted Shava, and he sustained injuries.

They also attacked an assistant at his law firm.

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“ZLHR condemns this barbaric form of violence against Shava. Shava has a human right to live free from violence and mistreatment.

“Shava has been an untiring advocate for justice and equality and has courageously stood up for the rights of oppressed persons and some marginalised communities.

“We believe that this savage attack on Shava is a desperate attempt to silence and deter him from doing his critical work as a legal practitioner.

“Just like any other legal practitioner, Shava has a right to practice any area of the law without fear of retribution for carrying out his professional duties. No lawyer should be assaulted, intimidated, hindered or interfered with in the execution of his professional duties,” said ZLHR.

The lawyers said they should be treated in a manner consistent with the provisions of the Constitution, the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

The International Commission of Jurists – Africa (ICJ-Africa) also condemned the attack on Shava.

His attack came a day after his clients, opposition members, Joana Mamombe and Cecilia were acquitted on publishing falsehoods charges.

“ICJ is deeply concerned about the vicious attack on Zimbabwean lawyer Obey Shava @obeyshava1 who represented @JoanaMamombe and @ceechimbiri2 after their abduction and torture, sexual assault and torture.

“That this attack follows during the same week that Joana and Cecilia were acquitted of criminal charges alleging that they lied about the abduction, torture, sexual assault does not appear to be coincidental.

“A reminder of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers Article 18: Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions,” said ICJ in a statement.”

The Law Society of Zimbabwe said it is disturbed by the extent of the attack.

“While we are still trying to gather details of the incident, the Law Society of Zimbabwe is disturbed by the gory pictures circulating on social media and condemn in the strongest terms this arbitrary use of violence.”

Southern Defenders, another grouping of rights lawyers, said “violence against defenders of justice is an assault on democratic value,” urging authorities to safeguard lawyers and hold perpetrators accountable.

Social media has been awash with solidarity messages with activists demanding justice.

His client Mamombe wrote, “Shava fearlessly represented us after we were abducted, tortured and sexually abused by suspected State agents.”

CCC’s Tendai Biti said the brutal assault “is a reflection of how low, how fragile the political polity has become in this country. We have truly become a fascist tin pot Republic.”