By Violet Gonda
18 March 2013
Zimbabwe police arrested prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa on Sunday for allegedly obstructing the course of justice but they too are defying a High Court order demanding her immediate release.
Mtetwa’s legal team filed an urgent High Court application and Justice Charles Hungwe ordered her immediate release. Rhodesville Police were issued with the order but refused to comply with the order.
The rights lawyer was arrested when she went to represent four MDC-T officials who were arrested a day after the nation voted in a referendum on a new constitution that calls for more protection against human rights violations.
An administrator in the Premier’s office, Anna Muzvidziwa, was arrested along with her one year-old son, but was later released. However Tsvangirai’s chief legal adviser Thabani Mpofu and Felix Matsinde, Mehluli Tshuma and Warship Dumba are still in custody.
One of their lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Dzimbabwe Chimbga, said they are accused of impersonating police. He said although the full nature of the charges are still not clear the detainees are being accused of having tried to gather some information to implicate senior government officials. Mtetwa is being charged with “obstructing or defeating the course of justice.”
Mtetwa, who has since Sunday been tossed around from one police station to another in Harare, was arrested when she tried to render legal assistance to Mpofu, whose home had been raided without a search warrant on Sunday morning.
ZLHR have filed a High Court Application seeking the release of the MDC-T officials.
The rights group also issued a statement saying: “For every Beatrice Mtetwa that these state agents and institutions put behind bars and attempts to embarrass, humiliate and punish without lawful cause, there are 10 other human rights lawyers waiting to take up the mantle.”
Meanwhile the Law Society of SA (LSSA) condemned the arrest of the human rights lawyer saying lawyers must be able to carry out their duties without fear of arrest or harassment, and called on the Zimbabwean authorities to release her “as a matter of urgency.”
“The steps that the Zimbabwean government is taking to advance its stature in the world will be compromised by actions which undermine the rule of law further,” the LSSA said in a statement on Monday.