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Arrest of another judge in Zimbabwe is 'cause for great concern,' UN says

Arrest of another judge in Zimbabwe is 'cause for great concern,' UN says

A United Nations rights expert today expressed grave concern over the arrest and detention of a Zimbabwean judge charged with an alleged obstruction of justice.

"While judges are not above the law, subjecting them to arrest and detention in such humiliating circumstances is tantamount to intimidation of the gravest kind," said Dato Param Cumaraswamy, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. "This leaves a chilling effect on the independence of the judiciary."

Justice Benjamin Paradza was arrested on Monday morning in his chambers and detained overnight before being released on bail the next day, the Special Rapporteur said. He appeared before a court for allegedly attempting to influence a fellow judge in a case involving an application for the release of a passport of an accused in a murder trial. Mr. Cumaraswamy believes that Justice Paradza had previously handed down decisions that were "unpalatable" to the Zimbabwean Government.

This latest development is but one in a series of institutional and personal attacks on the judiciary and its independent judges over the past two years, which have resulted in the resignations of several senior judges and which have left Zimbabwe's rule of law in tatters, Mr. Cumaraswamy said.

"When judges can be set against one another, then intimidated with arrest, detention and criminal prosecution there is no hope for the rule of law which is the cornerstone of democracy. It paves the way for governmental lawlessness," the Special Rapporteur said.