Joint statement

Zimbabwe: Joint Statement Concerning the Judgement Against Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa

Organizations and individuals urge against the disqualification of Beatrice Mtetwa as continuing defense legal counsel for journalist Hopewell Chin'ono.

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.

2. 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 imprison ment. 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."

3. 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.

4. 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).

5. 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..."

6. 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 Chart er. Subsequently, this  undermines  the  accused per son's right to a fair trial.

7. 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.

8. 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.


  1. ABANTU for Development, West Africa
  2. Africa Centre for Development Alternatives
  3. Africa Judges and Jurists Forum
  4. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
  5. African Defenders (Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  6. African Men for Sexual Health and Rights
  7. African Women's Development and Communication Network
  8. Agrarian South Network
  9. Amalgamated Rural Teacher's Union of Zimbabwe
  10. Amnesty International
  11. Cameroon Women's Peace Movement
  12. Centre for Democracy and Development (Mozambique)
  13. Centre for Applied Legal Studies
  14. Centre for Human Rights, Education, and Advice and Assistance
  15. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation
  16. Chapter One Foundation
  17. CIDH-Network of Independent Commission For Human Rights
  18. Coalition of African Lesbians
  19. Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations
  20. Defenders Coalition Kenya
  21. Democratic Governance and Rights Unit
  22. DITSHWANELO- The Botswana Centre for  Human Rights
  23. Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Coalition
  24. Expression Now Human Rights Initiative
  25. Freedom House
  26. Femme Defenseuse des Droits Humains - FDDH
  27. Gender Centre for Empowering Development
  28. Girl Child Network (Uganda)
  29. House of Justice
  30. Human Right Concern
  31. Human Rights Defenders Coalition
  32. Human Rights Defenders Network - SL
  33. Human Rights Enforcement Foundation (Uganda)
  34. Human Rights Institute of South Africa
  35. Human Rights Watch
  36. International Commission of Jurists (Kenya Section)
  37. International Refugee Rights Initiative
  38. Ithemba For Girls Trust
  39. Justice Access Point (Uganda)
  40. Kenya Human Rights Commission
  41. LAWA Ghana Alumnae Inc.
  42. Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana
  43. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Uganda
  44. Network of Independent Commission for Human Rights in Northern Africa
  45. Network for Women's Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT)
  46. Open Bar Initiative-Nigeria
  47. Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa
  48. Pan African Lawyers Union
  49. Panos Institute Southern Africa
  50. Reseau Quest Africain des defenseurs des droits humains (ROADDH)
  51. SADC Lawyers Association
  52. Samburu Women Trust
  53. Shalupe Foundation
  54. Sonke Gender Justice
  55. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network
  56. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  57. Southern Africa Litigation Centre
  58. Southern Africa Network Against Corruption
  59. Success Capital Organisation
  60. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition
  61. Women's Manifesto Coalition, Ghana
  62. West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  63. Zambia Council for Social Development
  64. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
  65. Zimbabwe National Students Union


  1. Achieng Akena
  2. Alice Mogwe
  3. Angela Quintal
  4. Arnold Tsunga
  5. Bella Matambanadzo
  6. Chikosa Banda
  7. Colleta Pamba
  8. Constance Vimbai Mukarati
  9. Corlett Letlojane
  10. Dewa Mavhinga
  11. Donald Deya
  12. Dr. Justice Alfred Mavedzenge
  13. Dr. Musa Kika
  14. Dr. Rose Nakayi
  15. Dr Walter Chambati
  16. Evelyn Chijarira
  17. Gloria Mabeiam Ballason
  18. Grace Kumwenda
  19. Gregory Chifire
  20. Hardlife Mudzingwa
  21. Happy Mhango
  22. Janah Ncube
  23. Justice Willy Mutunga, Former Chief Justice of Kenya 2013- 2017
  24. Juliana Zhanje
  25. Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh
  26. Kelvin Kabaya
  27. Kwemara Kafuuzi
  28. Leah Mitaba
  29. Lloyd Kuveya
  30. Makanatsa Makonese
  31. Mamukeleni Tsunga
  32. Martin Okumu-Masiga
  33. Mooya L. Nyaundi
  34. Muchengeti Hwacha
  35. Muleya Mwananyanda
  36. Muzi Masuku
  37. Nancy Njenge
  38. Nikiwe Kaunda
  39. Norman Tjombe
  40. Otto Saki
  41. Professor Chidi Anselm Odinkalu
  42. Professor Danwood Chirwa
  43. Professor Dzodzi Tsikata
  44. Professor Hugh Corder
  45. Professor Issa Shivji
  46. Professor Michela Hansungule
  47. Professor Paris Yeros
  48. Professor Praveen Jha
  49. Professor Reg Austin
  50. Professor Adriano Alfredo Nuvunga
  51. Robson Ruhanya
  52. Robson Chere
  53. Sandeep Chachra
  54. Sheila Minkah-Premo
  55. Simphiwe Sidu
  56. Tamuka Brian Kagoro
  57. Teresa Mugadza
  58. Thoko Matshe
  59. Thulani Mswelanto
  60. Tiseke Kasambala
  61. Vanja Karth
  62. Victor Mhango
  63. Vusumuzi Sifile
  64. Washington Katema
  65. Wesley Mwafulirwa
  66. Yao Graham