L4L Juryrapport L4L-Award
15 april 2011

L4L Juryrapport L4L-Award

Hier vindt u het juryrapport van de uitreiking van de eerste L4L-Award aan Alec Muchadehama op 15 april 2011 (hier in PDF).

This year for the first time, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary Lawyers for Lawyers is awarding a prize to a lawyer, or a group of lawyers, working to promote the rule of law and human rights in an exceptional way who have been threatened or obstructed because of their work as a lawyer.

The recipient of the 2011 Lawyers for Lawyers Award is Alec Muchadehama from Zimbabwe.An independent jury was assigned with the humbling and honorable task to review the nominations and to decide which lawyer or group of lawyers will receive the award.

Nine nominations were submitted for lawyers from The Philippines, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan and Iran. Each submission consisted of several nomination letters by local and international NGOs, colleagues in the legal profession and human rights organizations and even foreign states officials. The jury was impressed by the time and energy that had been devoted to the elaborate, warm-hearted and detailed nominations, which all gave an in-depth insight into the work and the related danger and risks faced by the nominees and showed the profound commitment all the nine nominees, young and old, to people suffering oppression, isolation, powerlessness, poverty and often violence and cruelty.

The jury was assigned an almost impossible task. How can people who demonstrate immense courage, defying great personal danger be assessed against each other?

The jury started by identifying general points of departure for assessment, looking at the quality and intensity of the work of the person or group concerned in a situation posing real danger for either their personal safety or their continuing to practice their profession. And, do they work as a lawyer and/or provide legal aid in a country or area where human rights are seriously violated?

The jury went on to examine whether the lawyers concerned had been the actual target of threats, oppression and/or violence.

The jury concluded that all the nominees fell within the framework of these basic criteria and would have more than deserved to receive this year’s award for their outstanding work.

The next step was for the jury to produce a further set of criteria. Are the risks and dangers in the country or area in question ongoing? And if so, has the nominated lawyer or group of lawyers continued to work while at risk of threat and danger within the country itself?

Weighing these factors, the jury, in recognition of his work as a lawyer in the past and as encouragement for ongoing work, has chosen the laureate, Alec Muchadehama.

Alec Muchadehama (18 March 1966) will receive the 2011 award for his perseverance; he has been arrested and imprisoned, but refuses to be discouraged and again and again consciously faces the risk of arrest. He has remained in Zimbabwe, when others felt it inevitable to leave the country. He has shown and continues to do so exceptional courage.

Since 2003 he has worked as a member of the Zimbabwe lawyers for Human Rights in the defence of many hundreds of human rights activists, unionists and members of the opposition, including many high profile leaders of these movements and fellow lawyers.

As a lawyer he works close to people often far from his office, in Bindura, Mount Darwin and Cheguta. He is a member of the Rapid Response Unit, who are on the spot as soon as possible when arrests are reported, to collect facts and information; in 2008 for example, when 200 displaced supporters of the political party MDC, among them women and children, were arrested at the MDC office. In the same year he participated in a group of lawyers who intensely searched Harare, Chinoyi and Goromonzi and surroundings for 18 kidnapped activists, including human rights activist Jestina Mukoko.

When Alec Muchadehama takes up a case his clients have a larger than average chance of success. If necessary he takes his cases to the highest court in the land and knows how to dismantle evidence fabricated by the State.

Only very recently – at the end of February – he took up the case of 45 students, trade unionists and activists, arrested for treason, who were accused of watching news videos of the uprising in Egypt and plotting to topple Zimbabwe president Mugabe.

In all his cases Muchadehama uses law not only as a tool for peaceful social transformation, but also as a tool for legal protection of the rule of law and human rights.

Alec Muchadehama does his work in the context of an unyielding longstanding dictatorship using the security sector and military establishment to suppress any kind of movement towards change. Arbitrary arrests and torture are regular occurrences.

Muchadehama’s legal firm’s offices have been searched and equipment and client files have been seized. He has been kept under surveillance and was at one time offered temporary safe accommodation by US and Dutch diplomats when the threat factor against him was so high that there was a fear he would be abducted and disappear. Since June 2009 he has been in a continuous process of court cases against him for obstructing or defying the course of justice. Accusations against him could result in long-term imprisonment.

One nomination letter calls Alec ‘a tenacious human rights defender. He is affable and symbolizes human resistance to evil as well as humility’.Until now, Alec Muchadehama has only won local awards. In 2003 he received the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Award for Lawyer of the Year and twice he was Lawyer of the Year of the Human Rights Festival of Zimbabwe.

The jury decided unanimously and with pride that Alec Muchadehama will receive the Lawyers for Lawyers Award and hope that this award will encourage him to continue his brave and sorely needed work for the people of Zimbabwe.

The Jury

Heikelina Verrijn Stuart (Jury President); legal publicist, member of the Advisory Council on International Affairs and the Commission on Restitution of Cultural Property and the Second World War. Chair of the board of the Human Rights Film Festival Movies that Matter;

Egbert Myjer; judge in the European court of Human Rights in respect of the Netherlands. Professor in human rights at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam;

Theo van Boven: professor emeritus in international law at the University of Maastricht. Has held several posts for the United Nations, including Special Rapporteur on Torture;

Els Swaab: former president of the Amsterdam Bar Association, former partner and current senior advisor of the law firm Boekel de Nerée. She is also president of the Dutch Culture Council.

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