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Senior Judge Quits Zimbabwe Post

January 3, 2002

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ A judge on Zimbabwe’s second-highest court has quit 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.

Four of the country’s 30 senior judges have quit in the last year, and a fifth recently retired. All were considered independent-thinking judges who had been under pressure from the government and ruling party militants.

Former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay was forced to resign last July after the government warned him and other judges 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 past two years, leaves 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.

The state-run Herald newspaper described Bartlett’s resignation as ``a sign white judges were leaving the bench after realizing they were losing grip on the judiciary.″

Last year, the government expanded the Supreme Court from five to eight judges in an apparent effort to pack the highest court in the country with sympathetic judges.

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