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Judge to Quit Zimbabwe's High Court

January 04, 2002|From Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe — A judge on Zimbabwe's second-highest court is quitting the bench, court officials said Thursday, part of a wave of resignations by independent-minded members of the judiciary.

In a country that has been criticized abroad as increasingly lawless, the judiciary has been under growing pressure by the government to issue rulings in its favor.

The resignation of High Court Judge David Bartlett, 49, will go into effect by late March. He gave no reasons for his decision to resign.

At least three other senior judges have quit in the last year, and a fifth recently retired. All were considered independent-minded jurists who had been under pressure from the government and ruling party militants.

Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay chose to retire early last summer after the government warned him and other judges that they would not be protected from ruling party militants, who stormed the Supreme Court in December 2000, shouting, "Kill the judges!"

The Supreme Court under Gubbay had declared the government-sanctioned seizure of white-owned farms illegal. The court was accused by militants of bias in favor of white landowners.

The departure of Bartlett, the fourth white judge to quit in the last two years, will leave two whites among about 25 judges in the nation's High Court, the second-highest judicial body. There are about 50,000 whites in Zimbabwe, a country of 13 million people.

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