Freedom Under Law, founded to assert the rule of law in Southern Africa, condemns the arrest reported today of the member of its Board of Directors, Beatrice Mtetwa.
Ms Mtetwa was professionally engaged in giving legal assistance to a client targeted by Zimbabwean police when she herself was taken into custody. It is particularly disturbing that the summary arrest of a highly respected legal practitioner should follow immediately after the closing of voting in the constitutional referendum in Zimbabwe and after a series of raids by police, even on the office of the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.
This is not the first occasion on which Ms Mtetwa has been harassed and deprived of her liberty by virtue of her courageous legal representation of political dissenters. Previously she has been detained and assaulted while in police custody. Freedom Under Law is concerned for her safety now and is in the process of arranging legal representation for her.
Beatrice Mtetwa is a former President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, director of the Mail&Guardian, and outspoken critic of executive excesses in Zimbabwe. Her work as a human rights lawyer has rightly received international recognition: She has received awards from the European Bar Human Rights Institute and the American Bar Association among other commendations.
Freedom Under Law calls for the immediate release of Beatrice Mtetwa, and the condemnation by other SADC governments of this retaliatory measure against one of Zimbabwe’s foremost human rights legal practitioners.