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19.03.2013 Zimbabwe

IBA Calls For The Immediate Release Of Zimbabwean Human Rights Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa

By International Bar Association
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The International Bar Association (IBA) calls for the immediate release of Beatrice Mtetwa – former president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and prominent human rights lawyer.

Ms Mtetwa was arrested on Sunday 17 March on charges of obstructing the course of justice and remains in police custody despite a high court order for her release.

Dr Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the IBA stated 'The arrest of Beatrice Mtetwa is yet another egregious act by Robert Mugabe's Government, aimed at undermining the rule of law and obstructing those who seek to protect the legal rights of citizens of Zimbabwe, which are guaranteed in their own Constitution'.

Baroness Helena Kennedy, Co-Chair of the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) said 'Beatrice Mtetwa's arrest is extremely worrying to the IBAHRI.

The right for lawyers to practice without undue interference or harassment is a fundamental principle of the rule of law, enshrined in the UN Basic Principles on the Roles of Lawyers. This is not the first time that Ms Mtetwa has been harassed by the authorities for performing her professional duties as a lawyer'.

She added 'Equally concerning is the defiance by the police of the high court order, representing further disturbing signs of erosion of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. The IBAHRI urges the relevant authorities in Zimbabwe to release Ms Mtetwa immediately and to protect the rights of lawyers, without exception'.

Ms Mtetwa was arrested along with her client Thabani Mpofu, legal advisor to Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, during a raid at his home in the early hours of Sunday 17 March 2013. According to reports, Ms Mtetwa asked police to provide a search warrant and an inventory of confiscated items, and attempted to film the raid using her mobile telephone.

This lead to her arrest and formal charge of obstructing the course of justice. Mr Mpofu, along with three other employees of Prime Minister Tsvangirai: Warship Dumba, Felix Manditse and Anna Muzvidziwa, were arrested and charged with impersonating the police and running an illegal non-governmental organisaition.

Ms Mtetwa has been internationally recognised for her human rights work in Zimbabwe, receiving a number of prestigious awards for her work defending Zimbabwean and international journalists in high profile cases.

About the International Bar Association:
the global voice of the legal profession

The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world's leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Its membership includes over 45,000 lawyers and more than 200 bar associations and law societies spanning every continent. The IBA influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

The IBA's Human Rights Institute works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just Rule of Law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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