Cablegate: Arrest of High Court Judge

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Police arrested High Court Judge Benjamin Paradza on
February 16 in his chambers. They allege that Paradza
contacted three fellow judges of the High Court in an
effort to influence them to release a passport belonging to
his business partner and friend Russell Wayne Luschagne,
who is facing murder charges. Paradza has been charged with
attempting to defeat the course of justice or,
alternatively, trying to contravene the Prevention of
Corruption Act. After spending a night in jail, he was
released on Z$20 000 (U.S.$14) bail and asked to surrender
his passport.

2. Jonathan Samkange, Paradza's lawyer, denied the charges
in a conversation with us. According to Samkange, Paradza
claims that Luschagne is not his business partner and that
he had only urged his fellow Judges to schedule a trial
date for Luschagne, whose murder trial has been pending for
two years. Samkange believes the government is trying to
humiliate the judge for ordering the mid-January release
without charge of Harare Mayor Elias Mudzuri. As reported
reftel, Mudzuri spent two nights in jail for trying to meet
with his constituents without having sought police
permission. Samkange reported that, two days after his
ruling in the Mudzuri case, Paradza was visited by two
Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) agents, who told
him the Government was unhappy with his decision and
intended to "embarrass him". In addition, Paradza received
a number of threatening calls in the aftermath of his
Mudzuri judgment.
3. Paradza's arrest elicited strong condemnations
from members of the legal fraternity. In a public
statement, the Legal Resources Foundation criticized
the arrest and overnight detention as "unwarranted and
high-handed" and maintained that an "internal inquiry"
by the High Court Judge President should have been the
first step in the process before criminal charges were
brought. "The unseemly haste with which the Judge was
arrested and detained is an affront to the dignity of
the Office of Judge and creates in the minds of the
public an unfortunate impression that Mr Justice
Paradza is being harassed for making judicial
pronouncements that have not been favorable to the
authorities." The President of the Law Society of
Zimbabwe, Sternford Moyo, agreed with the LRF
assessment, telling us that precedent would dictate
that an internal inquiry should have been conducted
first. If evidence of wrongdoing were found, then ,
the Constitution provides the parameters for
establishment of a tribunal to examine charges of
judicial misconduct. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights also condemned the arrest and called for the
Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
"to carry out his legal duty to protect the integrity
of the courts." Param Cumaraswamy, UN Special
Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers,
criticized the humiliating treatment of Paradza in
public remarks, saying it was "tantamount to
intimidation of the gravest kind. This leaves a
chilling effect on the independence of the judiciary."

4. The details of what crime Paradza is alleged to have
committed are still fuzzy. It is possible he might have
acted inappropriately. His arrest and detention by police,
along with that of fellow High Court Judge Fergus Blackie
last year, are unprecedented and suggest a new willingness
by the Government of Zimbabwe to intimidate judges openly
in order to ensure favorable judgments. In the only other
two cases in recent memory in which High Court judges were
accused of misconduct, special tribunals were established
to investigate the charges. Neither judge was arrested in
the meantime, and both continued to hear cases during the
investigation. Although the state-controlled media
insisted that Paradza's arrest was not politically
motivated, the visit he received from the CIO agents and
the threatening calls suggest otherwise. It appears as
though the Government was strongly displeased by his ruling
in the Mudzuri case and was determined to teach him a
lesson. That lesson likely will not be lost on Paddington
Garwe, the judge presiding over the Morgan Tsvangirai
treason case, and other colleagues on the bench.


© Scoop Media

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