JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT: HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS CONDEMN ARREST AND DETENTION OF ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER BEATRICE MTETWA

19/03/2013
Urgent Appeal

The undersigned civil society organisations condemn in the strongest terms the arrest and continued detention of veteran Zimbabwean human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa.

Mtetwa was arrested on Sunday, 17 March 2013, while attempting to provide legal assistance to Thabani Mpofu, Director of Research and Development in the Office of the Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, who was arrested the same day. We are particularly concerned by reports of impunity by the police in ignoring a high court order issued on Sunday night for her release as well as the bringing of frivolous charges of obstructing justice by defending her clients’ rights.

Mtetwa’s arrest and detention comes at an extremely fragile time for the country which voted on whether to accept a new Constitution in anticipation of elections this year on Saturday.

We strongly urge the South Africa mediation team, appointed by SADC to ensure a democratic transition in Zimbabwe, to raise its concerns about Mtetwa’s arrest and the threats to human rights defenders and civil society during this critical time. The use of state institutions to create a climate of fear and hostility will only undermine regional efforts to restore democracy and the rule of law.

We further support the efforts made by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to secure the release of Mtetwa and to ensure the protection of other human rights defenders.

The following organisations have endorsed this statement:

CENTRE FOR APPLIED LEGAL STUDIES
FREEDOM UNDER LAW
LAWYERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
LEGAL RESOURCES CENTRE
NDIFUNA UKWAZI
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
SOUTHERN AFRICAN LITIGATION CENTRE
ZIMBABWE EXILES FORUM
ZIMRIGHTS
OBSERVATORY FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS - a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

For more information, please contact:
· Lawyers for Human Rights: Jacob van Garderen, National Director: 082 820 3960
· FIDH: Arthur Manet/Audrey Couprie: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
· OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39

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