The Harare Magistrates Court commonly known as Rotten Row court was closed after a suspected typhoid outbreak affected some magistrates and court officials while suspects and witnesses were sent back.
The suspected typhoid outbreak came after the court spent several days without running water.
The suspension of court business incensed the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) which described the closure of the court as embarrassing and weakens the enjoyment of detainees’ rights.
“The development is an embarrassing sign of the state of collapse and dire situation in the country and adds to a numberless list of many state institutions like hospitals and universities that have been operating without adequate water among other economic ills facing the country.
The closure of the court-a vehicle for protecting human rights seriously undermines the enjoyment of the constitutionally recognised right of protection of the law for litigants, detainees, and even convicted prisoners whose matters are on appeal who have to suffer from the consequences that are not of their making,” reads part of a ZLHR statement issued Saturday.
The influential human rights group, which has been rescuing several human rights defenders and political activists, charged with crimes in Zimbabwe, said working in such buildings is a health hazard to magistrates, prosecutors, clerks, court officials and members of the public who have continued to be exposed to inhumane conditions that have characterised Rotten Row court, for a while.
ZLHR said it holds the coalition government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and through it the Harare City Council and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), accountable for the typhoid fever epidemic and the disruption to court business.
It is alarming and quite unusual for such a preventable and medieval disease to continue to incommode people in this day and age. The failure by the government to swiftly respond to the typhoid epidemic is an unacceptable failure of leadership,” said ZLHR.
The Irene Petras led ZLHR said the wanton infections were intolerable and shameful, and the State’s failure to contain the typhoid fever was “merely a replication of other high level failures, where the citizenry has now been disenfranchised of almost all their basic human rights.”
The human rights group said the failure by the government to guarantee and respect citizens’ right to health amounts to a serious violation of both local and international law and urged the government to take swift and visible corrective measures to prevent further outbreaks of typhoid, contain the epidemic, and prevent further outbreaks.
ZLHR implored the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to ensure that the Harare Magistrates Court and all courts in the country are equipped with the necessary tools and essentials to enable them to function properly, timeously and effectively in exercising their judicial authority.