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Statement condemning arbitrary arrest of a senior lawyer by the Police
The Law Society of Zimbabwe
March 18, 2012

The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) is utterly shocked to learn about the arrest of lawyer Ms Beatrice Mtetwa on allegations of obstructing the course of justice. The facts at hand suggest that Ms Mtetwa was arrested for merely exercising her right as a lawyer to represent her client who had called her as a search was being conducted allegedly without a search warrant. Ms Mtetwa challenged the legality of the search and was therefore arrested and detained.

Any arrest of a lawyer for representing their client is deplored in the strongest terms. It is repugnant to a normal civilised and democratic society. It cannot be denied that the actions of the police are meant to intimidate Ms Mtetwa and stop her from exercising her legitimate professional duties. The police action is uncalled for and speaks to a broader scheme to harass those lawyers who stand resolutely in defense of their clients. It is evident that the police could have easily recorded a statement from Ms Mtetwa if they so wished. The police were content to keep Ms Mtetwa in custody for a whole day for a simple charge and further chose to detain her in condemned police cells at Rhodesville Police Station.

This conduct of the police is in clear defiance of an existing High Court order in favour of LSZ against the police that binds them against hindering, obstructing, or taking any action which hinders any legal practitioner from gaining access to his client and carrying out his duties as a legal practitioner. The Law Society and 8 ORS vs The Commissioner Of Police and Anor HC3960/2007.The order clearly stipulates the rights of lawyers during the course of their duties and the same should be observed by the Police. The police are clearly acting in contempt of this order. Such impunity is a clear unmitigated assault on the rule of law and should not be allowed to continue unchecked.

A High Court order for the release of Beatrice Mtetwa is also being contemptuously ignored by the police. Such actions are a serious and unwarranted attack on the rule of law.

Lawyers are as of right entitled to work without any intimidation from state agents or otherwise and have unimpeded access and privacy to their clients. Threatening a legal practitioner for doing his/her work of providing legal representation to the clients who have exercised their choice, regardless of the charges the client faces or however politically unpopular the client may be, is an impingement on the rule of law, democracy and undermining the prominence of the bill of rights as enshrined in the constitution particularly Sections 17 and 18.

The LSZ therefore calls upon

  • Commissioner General to order his subordinates to immediately comply with the High Court order and cause the immediate release of Ms Mtetwa,
  • the police to stop the impingement of the rule of law through the harassment and ill treatment of lawyers and to observe the independence of the legal profession as expounded clearly in HC3960/07 .

The LSZ further demands the Inclusive government of the Republic of Zimbabwe particularly the Co-Ministers of Home Affairs to ensure that:

a) due respect and protection is accorded to lawyers, as detailed in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of lawyers (adopted in 1990) and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (adopted in 1998) and to ensure that lawyers are able to access their clients without hindrance and freely discharge their duties in the interest of effective administration of justice;

b) harassment, victimisation of lawyers merely for representing their clients be stopped;

c) Improper interference with lawyers’ work which interference curtails the freedom of the lawyers to effectively represent the clients who choose them to do so, is stopped;

d)demands of privileged information , attempts or threats to seize gadgets or other such accessories containing such privileged information is stopped and importantly

e) trumping up spurious charges and subpoenaing lawyers unnecessarily which amount to harassment and victimisation aimed at inducing fear and dissuading lawyers from representing certain clients be forthwith stopped.

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