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Government Should Protest against Detention of Zimbabwean MP Roy Bennett

Posted on: June 29th, 2005

I raise the case of Mr. Roy Bennett, MP, who is detained in Zimbabwe without trial in circumstances that are completely and utterly unacceptable under democratic rule. I raise the motion in the hope that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern will bring the matter to the attention of the Zimbabwean Government and make a protest on behalf of the people of Ireland.

Roy Bennett, an elected MP who had suffered great provocation and oppression from the Government of Mr. Mugabe, was speaking in parliament and was provoked by the Minister for Justice. Nobody suggests that there was no wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Bennett, but he pushed the Minister for Justice under great provocation from the Zanu-PF benches.

That is not something that any parliamentarian can approve of or condone, but the punishment that has been inflicted on him has been utterly unfair, disproportionate and totally undemocratic. Mr. Bennett has been sentenced to 17 months imprisonment, a year to be served and five months, I gather, suspended. This was imposed not by a court of law but by a parliamentary committee set up by Zanu-PF and then endorsed by a parliament rigged in favour of that party. We all know what happened in the last elections there and that the outcome was unacceptable and not recognised by any government, particularly ours.

I am asking the Government first of all to protest about the procedures which allow any member of a parliament to be judged by his peers and then given a custodial sentence. The second objection the Minister should make — and it is a human rights objection in every case — is not just to the lack of independent judgment, but to the disproportionate and unfair sentence meted out. The third reason is that Mr. Bennett’s right to appeal has been violated.

Where a man has been held in this way, we should use our political muscle to show we feel passionately about these rights being infringed.