Joint Statement of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), SADC Lawyers Association (SADC LA) and Southern Africa Ligitation Centre (SALC) on the Arrest and Detention of Beatrice Mtetwa and MDC-T Officials

The ICJ, PALU, SADC LA and SALC express their deepest concern at the unlawful arrest and detention of prominent Zimbabwean human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa and officials of the MDC-T party: Thabani Mpofu, Felix Matsinde, Anna Muzvidziwa and Worship Dumba.

Mtetwa was arrested after attempting to come to the aid of her clients, Mpofu, Matsinde, Muzvidziwa and 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. She was instead arrested and charged with “obstructing the course of justice.”

Thereafter, 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 it appears that police are seeking to elude compliance with the order as reports indicate that Mtetwa is being transferred from one Harare police station to another as lawyers for Mtetwa seek to serve the court order on different police stations.

The arrest of Mtetwa and the four MDC-T officials is in itself alarming, but that it comes 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 of 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 work unhindered.

Please view the Application and Provisional Order for Release of Beatrice Mtetwa

For more information contact:

Don Deya, PALU Chief Executive Officer,
secretariat@lawyersofafrica.org
+ 255 27 254 3192.

Arnold Tsunga, ICJ Africa Director,
arnold.tsunga@icj.org
+27 73 131 8411;

Nicole Fritz, SALC Executive Director,
NicoleF@salc.org.za
+27 82 600 1028;

Makanatsa Makonese, SADC LA Executive Director,
makanatsa@yahoo.ca
+27 72 571 4247.

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