Wednesday, 16 December 2020

JUDGE BLOCKED OVER JUDGEMENT

Zimbabwean judge Happias Zhou was blocked from sitting on an international legal panel as punishment over a judgement which invalidated the 2018 conversion of United States dollar balances to RTGS ordered by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, ZimLive has learnt.

Zhou was in the running to become one of seven members of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea when his nomination was withdrawn without his knowledge, legal sources said.

“Just a month after his bond note judgement, the government surreptitiously withdrew his candidature. He was never consulted. This is a most blatant attack on judicial independence,” the source said, declining to be named for professional reasons.

Judicial Service Commission spokesperson Rumbidzai Takawira has not responded to written questions sent weeks ago, despite acknowledging receiving them.

The States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea elected six members to the Tribunal in August, with the seventh seat to be contested. It was announced at the time that “the candidacy of Happias Zhou of Zimbabwe was withdrawn before voting.”

Documents seen by ZimLive show that on July 3, the registrar of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea received by email a note verbal from the Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe at the United Nations.

The note stated: “The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zimbabwe wishes to advise the registrar of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea that the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe has decided to withdraw the candidature to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for elections scheduled for September in New York.”

No reasons were provided. Legal sources familiar with the development say it was punishment for Zhou’s judgement, which the government is appealing. “We criticise judges all the time but never take time to consider their struggles,” the source said.

“The more independent ones take forever to get their vehicles of service. They don’t go on international trips and have their participation on these tribunals blocked. It’s all about control.” — ZimLive

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