A Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) mission has found that the arrest and detention of Zimbabwean attorney Beatrice Mtetwa breached the rule of law. The CLA’s final report on the trial observation mission undertaken to monitor the trial of the Zimbabwean human rights lawyer was released on 24 February 2014. The mission was conducted between March and November 2013 by a trial observer team comprising staff at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA (SERI).
Ms Mtetwa was arrested in Harare on 17 March 2013 for “obstructing the course of justice” while assisting her client, a senior legal adviser to Morgan Tsvangirai, the former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. On 26 November 2013, she was acquitted and discharged at the end of the state’s case, the presiding Magistrate finding that she had no case to answer. While finding that Ms Mtetwa’s trial was substantially fair, the CLA report expressed grave concern that Ms Mtetwa’s arrest, detention and trial were allowed to happen in the first place. It was, says the report, evident that nothing Ms Mtetwa was alleged to have done was capable of “obstructing justice”. Instead, her arrest and subsequent detention were clearly an attempt to harass and intimidate her; to punish her for asserting her client’s rights.