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Commonwealth, SADC Lawyers Castigate Harassment of Beatrice Mtetwa

The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) and the SADC Lawyers Association Thursday lashed out at the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) after it barred prominent lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa from seeing her client, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono who has been held without bail for over a month at Chikurubi Maximum Security prison.

Chin’ono is accused of inciting violence in the lead up to the foiled July 31 demonstration. He has since been denied bail over four times, together with his co-accused, Jacob Ngarivhume, the converter of the demonstration.

However, Mtetwa, who is the lead lawyer for Chin’ono, has faced persecution from the courts and Prisons officials, with the recent directive barring her from visiting her client.

In a statement, the CLA said it was concerned by the barring of Mtetwa from seeing her client, a move which violets constitutional declarations of the right to legal services.

“The CLA expresses very serious concern that Ms Beatrice Mtetwa has been prevented from representing her client in court by the direction of the Magistrate in Zimbabwe and Expresses very serious concern that the Court, which should uphold the Constitution, has not permitted the Defendant, in this case, to be represented by a legal practitioner of his choosing.

“The CLA encourages the rule of law to be upheld however challenging may be the circumstances,” reads part of the statement.

According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe,  Article 70, any person accused of an offence has the right to: ” Choose a legal practitioner and, at their own expense, to be represented by that legal practitioner…”

In a separate statement, SADC-LA said the greatest injustice in all this is the subtraction, from ordinary citizens, the
right to legal representation of one’s choice.

“It is likely to engender reduction in professional confidence in platforms of accountability and definitely undermines the rights to a fair trial, freedom of expression and equal access to justice for all. This, at a time when the global cry is to ensure equal access to justice under the sustainable development goals,” reads the statement.

The directive by the ZPCS also violates the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba,
27th August to 7th September 1990 which states at paragraph 16, that:

“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.”

 

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