Police defy High Court order to release Beatrice Mtetwa

Monday, 18 March 2013

Police in Harare are defying a High Court order to release Beatrice Mtetwa, a human rights lawyer who was unlawfully arrested and detained on Sunday.

Mtetwa who is a board member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) was arrested while trying to represent Thabani Mpofu, Anna Muzvidziwa, Felix Matsinde, senior officials in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office and Harare councillor Warship Dumba who had been arrested on false charges.

The four are expected to appear in court today.

Soon after her arrest on Sunday, Mtetwa’s legal team filed an urgent chamber application in the High Court and Justice Charles Hungwe ordered her immediate release. The lawyers served the order at Rhodesville Police Station at around 2.30 in the morning today but the police refused to comply with the order.

The officer commanding CID Law and Order, the investigating officer Detective Assistant Inspector Mirimbo and one Superintendent Mukazhi who ordered the arrest of Mtetwa were all made aware of the order and ignored it.

ZHLR this morning said Mtetwa was taken to Law and Order at around 9:30 in the morning but police in defiance of the court order continue to hold her in their custody.

At around 11:00 am she was driven back to Rhodesville Police Station by Detective Assistant Inspector Phiri and five other police details where she was dumped. Police at Rhodesville who were advised that they were continuing to act in contempt of a High Court order forcibly lodged her in cells again at 11:20, where she is at present. Mtetwa has been denied access to her relatives who have travelled from outside the country to be with her.

The ZHLR says it has documented several cases involving its members and staff who were subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention and similar charges of obstructing justice – all of which came to naught in the past.

It said it was aware of the Machiavellian tactics of the law enforcement agents and other State institutions who have everything to fear from lawyers who represent their clients without fear and favour and insist on full compliance with the law and constitutional safeguards.

“These retrogressive forces believe that such tactics will intimidate Beatrice and have a chilling effect on other human rights lawyers who continue to soldier on bravely in representing all manner of human rights defenders who have suffered serious rights violations. There is a misguided belief that by attacking lawyers, as well as their clients, positive forces who believe in a new professional way of behaving will be cowed, and civil society engagement in issues of human rights and democracy will be destroyed,” ZHLR said.