Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Statement on the arrest of Beatrice Mtetwa
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition would like to register its disquiet with the unlawful arrest and detention by the police on Sunday 17 March 2013, of Eminent Human Rights Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa. We view the arrest of Mtetwa, as yet another unfortunate example of how the Police are consistently overstepping their authority and contrary to their oath to uphold the law are breaking and abusing it to meet unspecified and opaque aims. Although the Police have tried to sale a case of "Obstruction", we believe that Beatrice is being targeted because she has become a fly in the ointment of the state, the Police and known Political parties, and their sinister agenda to trample on the rights of Zimbabwean Citizens. We note the above precisely because it is Former Zimbabwe Law Society President Mtetwa, who has shielded ZIMRIGHTs, ZPP, The Glen View 29, recently against the politically motivated machinations of the state and its functionaries in the police. We are fully convinced that Mrs Mtetwa's arrest is punishment, not for breaking any laws but for daring to do what lawyers do - represent a client and ensure that the police, in the conduct of their work are not shredding the Bill of Rights and the law in the process.
This unprofessional approach to Policing has become widespread and commonplace over the last 10 weeks as we have seen police cracking down on Human Rights Defenders, their organizations and now their Lawyers. We are fully aware that the Criminalization of Mrs. Mtetwa, as in previous instances, is not meant to meet any legal and just ends, but to intimidate Human Rights Lawyers, their clients and organizations.
Coming as it does a day after a referendum on a draft Constitution, and even before the ink had dried on our ballot papers, we condemn this nicodemous conduct of the Police, which was carried out while the nation's attention was on the Referendum, and declare that these acts are ultra vires the country's constitution, and the spirit with which the people of Zimbabwe collectively participated in the referendum. The Coalition contends that the referendum was not just on the constitution but more on the old way of doing business. Results of which already indicate that the people voted for a break with the past including arbitrary arrests, harassment of HRDs, their Lawyers and organizations. The Coalition urges the police to get on board with this new agenda, break with the past and start building a new progressive and better Zimbabwe where the police are not a law unto themselves.
The Coalition demands:
- The immediate release of Beatrice Mtetwa without further delay, as ordered by the High Court in the early hours of Monday the 18th of March 2013.
- That the Police STOP ignoring Court orders, and subject themselves to the law that they are sworn to serve.
- That the inclusive Government of Zimbabwe, immediately ceases the harassment and criminalisation Human Rights Lawyers, their clients and organisations and urgently take measures to ensure the protection of Lawyers.
- The police and prosecuting authorities should exercise professionalism and carry out their duties in a non-partisan manner and desist from the intimidation of human rights lawyers and their clients.
We remain convinced that this unprofessional conduct by the Police, and their attempts to criminalize and discredit Mrs Mtetwa are wholly associated with the impending elections. We thus call upon the Government of Zimbabwe, the Southern African Development Community, and the International Community to urge the Police to desist from such unwarranted actions, which themselves boarder on criminality and are anathema and a bad sign for the holding of free and fair.