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Judge arrested

High Court judge Benjamin Paradza was arrested for allegedly trying to influence three fellow judges to release the passport of his business partner and friend Russell Wayne Luschagne who was facing murder charges.

His lawyer Jonathan Samkange said Luschagne was not Paradza’s business partner. He had only urged his fellow judges to schedule a trial date for Luschagne because his murder trial had been pending for two years.

Samkange believed the government was trying to humiliate Paradza for ordering the mid-January release of Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri.

Samkange said that two days after his ruling in the Mudzuri case, Paradza was visited by two Central Intelligence Organization agents who told him the government was unhappy with his decision and intended to “embarrass him”.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 03HARARE361, ARREST OF HIGH COURT JUDGE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE361

2003-02-21 11:04

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

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

UNCLAS HARARE 000361

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

NAIROBI FOR TPFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR ZI

SUBJECT: ARREST OF HIGH COURT JUDGE

 

REF: HARARE 77

 

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.”

Comment

——-

 

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.

 

SULLIVAN

 

(29 VIEWS)

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