Arrest of Beatrice Mtetwa
The Law Society of Namibia joins the regional and international voices condemning the violations of human rights and the rule of law by the Zimbabwean authorities, which has resulted in the arrest of Beatrice Mtetwa, an acclaimed human rights lawyer.
From all available reports, Ms Mtetwa was arrested while giving legal assistance to clients during a raid on their premises by Zimbabwean police
It is even more disconcerting to the Law Society of Namibia that the Zimbabwean authorities are deliberately frustrating the execution of a Zimbabwean High Court order that Ms Mtetwa be released. We herewith join Freedom Under Law and all other organisations in calling for the immediate release of Beatrice Mtetwa in compliance with the court order.
The Law Society of Namibia further remains extremely concerned by reports that human rights lawyers in Zimbabwe continue to receive threats and suffer harassment at the hands of the Zimbabwean authorities.
In this regard we refer to the state parties’ obligation under international law to protect the rights of lawyers, including those engaged in the promotion of human rights. This obligation is evident from amongst others:
The U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted in 1990: Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference … and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics. (Article 16);
The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 1998 by the U.N. General Assembly: Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession. Everyone who, as a result of his or her profession, can affect the human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of others should respect those rights and freedoms and comply with relevant national and international standards of occupational and professional conduct or ethics. (Article 11); and
The principles enshrined in the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a state party, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Law Society of Namibia
(Beatrice Mtetwa was eventually released on Monday 25 April after mounting pressure from international human rights, legal aid organisations and professional lawyers bodies – Ed.)