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arrest and detention of Beatrice Mtetwa is alarming, says joint
statement by African legal bodies
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Pan African Lawyers
Union (PALU), SADC Lawyers Association (SADC LA) and Southern Africa
March 18, 2013
Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU),
SADC Lawyers Association (SADC LA) and Southern Africa Litigation
Centre (SALC) express their deepest concern at the unlawful arrest
and detention of prominent Zimbabwean human rights lawyer, Beatrice
Mtetwa was arrested after attempting to come to the aid of her clients
– MDC-T officials, Thabani Mpofu, Felix Matsinde, Anna Muzvidziwa
and Worship Dumba. Mtetwa had sought to ensure that the search of
the communications office of the MDC-T and the arrest of the four
complied with legal requirements, demanding that the police produce
a search warrant. Instead, she was arrested and charged with ‘obstructing
the course of justice’.
she and the four MDC-T officials were taken to Rhodesville police
station in Harare. Lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
(ZLHR) worked late into the night of Sunday, 17 March, urgently
petitioning the High Court of Zimbabwe to secure Mtetwa’s
release. The order was granted just before midnight.
At present police
are seeking to elude compliance with the order, transferring Mtetwa
from one Harare police station to another to prevent her lawyers
from being able to officially serve the court order. ZLHR are in
the process of filing another urgent application to have Mtetwa’s
continued detention declared to be in contempt of court. However,
her legal team are being denied access to her.
The arrest of
Mtetwa is in itself alarming. But coming on the heels of a referendum
to endorse a new constitution which, whatever its other limitations,
contains strong protection of the rights of those arrested and detained,
is more distressing still.
Without a clear
and unambiguous departure from a past characterised by harassment
and intimidation of human rights defenders and by impunity for Zimbabwe’s
police and security sector, the promise of the new Constitution
will be laid to waste.
The ICJ, PALU,
SADC LA and SALC urge the Zimbabwean police and authorities to respect
the Zimbabwean High Court order, to release Mtetwa from detention
and to allow her and other human rights defenders to conduct their
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