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on the situation of Beatrice Mtetwa
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
March 18, 2013
On Sunday 17
March 2013, just a few hours after the constitutional
referendum, it was business as usual in Zimbabwe with the unlawful
arrest and detention of Beatrice Mtetwa – a Board member of
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and senior, much respected
member of our legal profession.
attending to a client whose home was being raided and was placed
under arrest after requesting the production of a valid search warrant
and inventory list for materials that had already been removed from
the home by the police. Police details unlawfully confiscated her
mobile telephone containing privileged lawyer-client communication
after handcuffing her when she protested. She was held in an unmarked
police vehicle whilst the search proceeded at her client’s
home and another office in the absence of legal representation.
Our Board member
was subjected to several hours of waiting in police custody at the
Law and Order section at Harare Central police station before a
warned and cautioned statement was recorded in which she is charged
with defeating and/or obstructing the course of justice under the
(Codification and Reform) Act – section 184(1) (g). Despite
earlier promises to release her into the custody of her lawyers,
she was lodged in cells at Rhodesville police station at around
Her legal team
filed an Urgent Chamber Application in the High Court thereafter
and Justice Charles Hungwe ordered
her immediate release. Lawyers served the order at Rhodesville police
station at around 02:30hrs; however the police refused to comply
with the Order. The Officer Commanding CID Law and Order, the Investigating
Officer Detective Assistant Inspector Mirimbo, and one Superintendent
Mukazhi who ordered the arrest were all made aware of the Order,
and similarly ignored it.
Beatrice was taken to Law and Order around 09:30hrs and continued
to be held in their custody in defiance of the court Order. At around
11:00hrs, however, she was driven back to Rhodesville police station
by Detective Assistant Inspector Phiri and around 5 other details,
where she was dumped. Police at Rhodesville were advised that they
were continuing to act in contempt of a High Court Order; nevertheless,
they proceeded to forcibly lodge her in cells once again at around
11:20hrs, where she remains at present. Most recently, she was denied
access to her relatives who have traveled from outside the country
to be with her.
ZLHR has documented
several cases involving its members and staff who were subjected
to arbitrary arrest and detention and similar charges of obstructing
justice – all of which came to naught in the past.
We are well
aware of the Machiavellian tactics of the law enforcement agents
and other state institutions who have everything to fear from lawyers
who represent their clients without fear or favour and insist on
full compliance with the law and constitutional safeguards.
forces believe that such tactics will intimidate Beatrice and have
a chilling effect on other human rights lawyers who continue to
soldier on bravely in representing all manner of human rights defenders
who have suffered serious rights violations. There is a misguided
belief that by attacking lawyers, as well as their clients, positive
forces who believe in a new professional way of behaving will be
cowed, and civil society engagement in issues of human rights and
democracy will be destroyed.
and actors must understand that lawyers are officers of the court.
They have rights to carry out their professional duties without
hindrance, and these rights should be understood and respected.
Lawyers should not be associated with their clients’ cause
and must be protected, rather than vilified and subjected to such
criminal and degrading behavior.
We are here
today as Beatrice’s peers, colleagues, friends and allies
to let these forces know that human rights lawyers will not be intimidated,
will not bow, and will not allow this to happen. We continue to
stand by our Board member, we believe that she will be vindicated
and that the world is watching and can see these violators and their
For every Beatrice
Mtetwa that these state agents and institutions put behind bars
and attempt to embarrass, humiliate and punish without lawful cause,
there are 10 other human rights lawyers waiting to take up the mantle.
Visit the ZLHR
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