Re: Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa, lawyer, Council member of the Law Society of Zimbabwe
To: Khembo Mohadi, Zimbabwe Minister of Home Affairs
From: C. Morris, BA, LLB, LLM, Member LRWC
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), a committee of Canadian lawyers, provides support internationally to lawyers in danger and promotes the enforcement of international human rights standards protecting the duty and right of lawyers to uphold the rule of law.
We are writing to inform you of LRWC’s serious concern about reports of an assault on October 12, 2003 on a lawyer and a member of the Council of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa. We regret to advise you of reports we have received about an assault by police on Ms. Mtetwa after she had contacted police to report a car-jacking robbery on October 12, 2003. Robbers took her mobile phone, car keys and other belongings. Instead of assisting her, police assaulted her violently in her car and at Borrowdale Police Station. Police also accused her of being drunk; however, she was not given a breathalyser test at any time. Our information is that she suffered significant injuries as a result of this assault by police, but police failed to take her to hospital or otherwise provide her with medical assistance. This assault is being perceived as police harassment of Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa as she carries out her professional duties as a lawyer and member of the Council of the Law Society of Zimbabwe.
LRWC urges you to remind all relevant authorities of Zimbabwe’s international legal obligations concerning the protection of lawyers and human rights defenders. Article 17 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.” Article 16 provides that:
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognised professional duties, standards and ethics.”
LRWC is also concerned for the wellbeing and safety of Beatrice Mtetwa and we respectfully urge you to assure her protection and conduct an immediate investigation concerning this incident and the ill-treatment Ms. Mtetwa has experienced at the hands of Zimbabwe’s police. We urge to you to take all possible steps to ensure that the perpetrators of these serious crimes are brought to justice as quickly as possible. LRWC continues to urge Zimbabwe to take urgent and decisive measures to ensure that all lawyers and human rights defenders, and indeed, all persons in Zimbabwe, are treated in accordance with the principles of international human rights.
LRWC would greatly appreciate a response from your office concerning the results of your investigations, and the actions proposed by your government to ensure the protection of the international human rights of lawyers and other citizens in Zimbabwe. Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.