JOINT STATEMENT CONCERNING THE JUDGMENT AGAINST LAWYER BEATRICE MTETWA

Salc : Staff Writer
  1. We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations and individuals note with grave concern the decision of the Zimbabwean Magistrates Court to disqualify Beatrice Mtetwa from continuing as defence legal counsel for journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who is currently being tried on charges of inciting public violence. The Magistrates’ Court also ordered the Prosecutor General to consider instituting proceedings of contempt of court against Beatrice Mtetwa.
  1. The Magistrates Court’s decision was made at the instance of an application by the state for Beatrice Mtetwa’s disqualification on grounds that she had made certain public statements which the state perceived as showing that she was no longer an objective officer of the court in the legal matter. It is alleged that Beatrice Mtetwa authored and or authorized the publication of the following statement on a Facebook page titled “Beatrice Mtetwa and The Rule of Law”:

“Where is the outrage from the international community that Hopewell Chin’ono is being held as a political prisoner? His life is in serious peril. Raise awareness about his unlawful imprisonment. Do not let him to be forgotten. You or someone you love could be the next one abducted from your home and put in leg irons.”

  1. We note that Beatrice Mtetwa testified before the court that she has no control over the said Facebook page and therefore, did not author or authorize the said publications. She is not listed as an administrator of the said Facebook page.
  1. We strongly believe that, even if a lawyer were to make the statements which Beatrice Mtetwa is alleged to have made, such statements are protected under the right to freedom of expression. This right is guaranteed in section 61 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, article 19 (2) of the International Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and article 9(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter).
  1. Further, in terms of Principle 23 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (UN Basic Principles):

“Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights…..”

  1. By disqualifying Beatrice Mtetwa, the court has undermined the accused person (Hopewell Chin’ono)’s right to legal representation, which is guaranteed in section 70(1) (d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, article 14(3) (b) of the ICCPR and article 7(1) of the African Charter. Subsequently, this undermines the accused person’s right to a fair trial.
  1. We therefore express our concern over this judgment as it undermines not just Beatrice Mtetwa’s right to practice law but it has a chilling effect on the exercise of many other associated rights including the right to freedom of expression for lawyers, the accused persons’ right to legal representation as well as the right to fair trial. Ordinarily, courts must be the shield that protects these rights rather than being the sword that destroys fundamental rights.
  1. We call on the Zimbabwean authorities to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of everyone, including Beatrice Mtetwa’s right to freedom of expression and to practice her profession, the right of the accused to fair trial including legal representation. There is no justice without freedom and the rule of law.

Organisations

Africa Centre for Development Alternatives
Africa Judges and Jurists Forum
African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
African Defenders (Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network)
African Men for Sexual Health and Rights
African Women’s Development and Communication Network
Amalgamated Rural Teacher’s Union of Zimbabwe
Amnesty International
Cameroon Women’s Peace Movement
Centre for Democracy and Development (Mozambique)
Centre for Applied Legal Studies
Centre for Human Rights, Education, and Advice and Assistance
Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation
Chapter One Foundation
CIDH-Network of Independent Commission For Human Rights
Coalition of African Lesbians
Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations
Defenders Coalition Kenya
Democratic Governance and Rights Unit
DITSHWANELO-Botswana Centre for Human Rights
Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Coalition
Expression Now Human Rights Initiative
Freedom House
Gender Centre for Empowering Development
Girl Child Network (Uganda)
House of Justice
Human Right Concern
Human Rights Defenders Coalition
Human Rights Defenders Network – SL
Human Rights Enforcement Foundation (Uganda)
Human Rights Institute of South Africa
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists (Kenya Section)
International Refugee Rights Initiative
Ithemba For Girls Trust
Justice Access Point (Uganda)
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana
National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Uganda
Network of Independent Commission for Human Rights in Northern Africa
Pan African Lawyers Union
Panos Institute Southern Africa
Réseau Ouest Africain des défenseurs des droits humains (ROADDH)
SADC Lawyers Association
Samburu Women Trust
Shalupe Foundation
Sonke Gender Justice
South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network
Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Southern Africa Network Against Corruption
Success Capital Organisation
Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition
West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
Zambia Council for Social Development
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
Zimbabwe National Students Union

 

Individuals

Achieng Akena
Alice Mogwe
Angela Quintal
Arnold Tsunga
Chidi Odinkalo
Chikosa Banda
Colleta Pamba
Dewa Mavhinga
Dr. Justice Alfred Mavedzenge
Dr. Musa Kika
Dr. Rose Nakayi
Gloria Mabeiam Ballason
Grace Kumwenda
Gregory Chifire
Hardlife Mudzingwa
Justice Willy Mutunga, Former Chief Justice of Kenya 2013-2017
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh
Kelvin Kabaya
Kwemara Kafuuzi
Leah Mitaba
Makanatsa Makonese
Mamukeleni Tsunga
Martin Okumu-Masiga
Mooya L. Nyaundi
Muchengeti Hwacha
Muleya Mwananyanda
Muzi Masuku
Norman Tjombe
Otto Saki
Professor Danwood Chirwa
Professor Hugh Corder
Professor Issa Shivji
Professor Michelo Hansungule
Professor Reg Austin
Professor Adriano Alfredo Nuvunga
Robson Ruhanya
Tamuka Brian Kagoro
Thulani Mswelanto
Tiseke Kasambala
Vanja Karth
Victor Mhango
Vusumuzi Sifile
Washington Katema
Wesley Mwafulirwa