REDRESS condemns the attack on a Zimbabwe human rights lawyer

REDRESS is shocked and dismayed to learn of the brutal police assault on prominent Zimbabwe human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa on Sunday 12 October 2003. This unlawful attack ironically followed her calling the police to report the attempted hi-jacking of her motor vehicle, and is a further example of how those meant to uphold the law in Zimbabwe are now amongst the chief lawbreakers.

Beatrice Mtetwa has a well-deserved reputation both inside and outside her country for her fearless defence of human rights. Her courageous legal battles, particularly on behalf of independent journalists targeted by the Zimbabwe government, has now made her a target too.

The Harare policeman who beat her up, and his colleagues who watched without intervening, are all members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, a once professional body which in recent years has become little more than an extension of the ruling Zanu-PF party. It is the same police force to which Chief Inspector Dowa belongs, the man Zimbabwe activists recently accused of torture, who was expelled from the United Nations police force in Kosovo following REDRESS’ intervention.

Because of her refusal to be intimidated, Mrs Mtetwa was savagely punched, kicked and choked, but as she herself stated afterwards, the vast majority of ordinary Zimbabweans are unable to stand up for their rights, and go through worse than this.

National and international groups have documented the continuing gross and systematic violations of human rights, including torture of the most horrific kind imaginable. REDRESS joins all those people and organisations inside and outside Zimbabwe who have condemned this latest example of state-sponsored violence.

The collapse of the rule of law in Zimbabwe, the refusal of the government to obey court orders, and the open support the Supreme Court is giving Zanu-PF as illustrated by its recent ruling leading to the shut-down of the country’s only independent daily newspaper, gives no reason to think that Mrs Mtetwa and other human rights victims will soon obtain justice.

Maximum international pressure may influence the Mugabe regime to re-think its campaigns of violence, as all other efforts have fallen on deaf ears. In this context REDRESS calls upon African governments in particular, and especially those in Southern Africa, to voice their grave concern.