Zimbabwe

High-ranking accused in "scurrilous" bid to remove foreign judges from Lesotho cases

When Judge Charles Hungwe from Zimbabwe arrived in Lesotho earlier this year to start work on a series of controversial trials, he was given a warm reception in the local media. But since then the accused in some of the cases over which he was due to preside proved rather less than welcoming. In fact, 16 accused initially due to stand trial before him, led by Lesotho's former defence minister, Tseliso Mokhosi, have brought an application for his appointment – and the appointment of all other foreign judges who might hear the pending cases – to be declared unconstitutional. 

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Zimbabwe's Judge Charles Hungwe is one of several foreign judges who applied to hear controversial criminal cases involving high-ranking figures from among Lesotho’s politicians, army and police.

Zim judges may no longer sentence young male offenders to be caned: constitutional court

The law in Zimbabwe has allowed a court to impose a sentence of “moderate corporal punishment” on any boy under 18 convicted of any offence. This has been justified as a way of keeping young people out of prison, among other reasons. But now the country’s constitutional court says that this section of the law runs foul of developing human dignity jurisprudence. Corporal punishment, as a court imposed sentence, has to go – it cannot be retained in a society that wants to ensure no-one is subjected to degrading treatment or punishment.

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The landmark decision by Zimbabwe’s constitutional court, delivered this week, had the unanimous agreement of the entire bench.

At issue was an earlier decision by high court judge Esther Muremba, delivered in January 2015, in which she found that court-imposed corporal punishment on male juvenile offenders was not constitutional.

Christmas is coming, so we're putting you in jail

In the midst of bad stories about the quality of justice being experienced in Zimbabwe’s courts comes a high court judgment that sees the accused as an individual – and that sets aside his trial sentence in the lower court as a shocking expression of the magistrate’s whims about burglars at Christmas.

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The judiciary in Zimbabwe is not enjoying a particularly good international reputation at the moment. News of bail applications routinely refused, of mass trials and sham prosecutions  – all have raised questions about the quality of justice being dispensed in that country during the current crackdown on opposition activists.

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