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Police Bars Law Society Protest March

THE Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in Harare on Monday 25 March, 2013 barred a protest march organised by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) that was scheduled to take place at 1330hrs on that same day.

 

The LSZ leadership said the protest march had been intended to stand in solidarity with award-winning human rights defender and former Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) President, Beatrice Mtetwa.

 

The ZRP alleged that the application by the Law Society to hold a protest march intending to deliver a petition to the authorities did not meet the seven day notice in line with section 25(1) (a) of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA). Further the police asserted that:

"The march has the potential threat of being hijacked by unruly political malcontents as evidenced by the demonstration that took place at the Rotten Row Magistrates Court on Friday 22nd of March 2013 where an unidentified group of people staged an unsanctioned demonstration. €

 

The letter was signed off by Chief Superintendent Officer Commanding Harare District T.A Chagwedera on Saturday March 23.

 

However without marching, the LSZ went on to present its petition and held a press conference in Harare on Monday March 25. The recipients of the petition who acknowledged receiving the lawyers' written complaints whose reference was the arrest of Mtetwa are: Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, Attorney General's Office and ZRP Central Headquarters in the capital Harare.

"The Law Society of Zimbabwe wishes to register its utmost displeasure at the circumstances surrounding the recent arrest of Senior Lawyer Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa. The undisputed facts indicate that Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa was attending to her duties as a legal practitioner. €

 

The society said that the fact that Mtetwa demanded to see the search warrant which purportedly allowed the police to rifle through her client's house and confiscate valuable items was not an aberration from best practice.

"A search warrant is a legal document whose validity can be challenged or which is capable of being abused...No proof that the warrant existed at the time it was requested exists to date. €

 

The LSZ disapproved of the way Mtetwa, who was granted bail by the High Court in Harare on the morning of the day the petition was delivered after spending a week in prison, was allegedly treated in police custody.

"Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa was handcuffed, denied access to lawyers and relatives, whilst in police custody. She was denied bathroom facilities.

"In a brazen act of intimidation, two male police officers entered her cell in the middle of the night, in pitch darkness and snatched her blanket. €

"As if all this was not sufficient, the police ignored a High Court Order requiring them to release Ms. Mtetwa forthwith. This was contemptuous of a High Court ruling and there is no better example of breaking the rule of law than this. €

 

The LSZ alleged that the Attorney General's Office had appeared "to be complicit in condoning the police's defiance of a High Court order € and that the Harare Magistrates' court had shown an "apparent abdication of its role to uphold the rule of law. €  The lawyers' grouping said:

"Lawyers are officers of the Court. The Law Society is concerned with the apparent failure of the Courts to protect its members. The Law Society feels that these actions by the police are calculated to intimidate lawyers. The actions smack of identifying lawyers with the cause(s) of their clients. €

The country's lawyers demanded:

"Protection of lawyers' rights to represent their clients unhindered and not to be associated with causes of their clients no matter how unpopular the cause maybe [and] that Court Orders must be obeyed as the foundation of the RULE OF LAW. €

 

The petition was signed off by the LSZ President Lloyd Mativenga Mhishi.

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