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ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship condemn recent attacks on lawyers

(ARTICLE 19/Index on Censorship/IFEX) - The following is a 17 May 2007 joint statement by ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship:

Zimbabwe: ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship condemn recent attacks on Zimbabwe Law Society members
ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Freedom of Expression and Index on Censorship condemn the appalling attacks on several members of the Zimbabwean Law Society on Tuesday 8th May.

Zimbabwean security officers used brutal methods in their attempt to disperse a peaceful protest of members of the Law Society outside the High Court in the capital Harare. The lawyers were attempting to hand over a petition protesting the refusal of the state to comply with three Court orders requiring the release of the lawyers Andrew Makoni and Alec Muchadehama, who had been arrested the week before.

The President of the Law Society, Beatrice Mtetwa was taken away and beaten by the police along with three of her colleagues who were also participating in the march. Mtetwa is a prominent Zimbabwean human rights lawyer who won the Index on Censorship Law Award in 2006.

Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, said, "Beatrice Mtetwa is a close friend and advisor to ARTICLE 19 and we with our colleagues at Index, fully support the Committee to Protect Journalists' call for a full and transparent investigation into this blatant infringement of Beatrice's human rights and those of her colleagues."

The government has begun to target and terrorise lawyers, particularly those dealing with human rights and opposition politicians' cases. Beatrice Mtetwa stated "members of the Law Society of Zimbabwe have endured various forms of harassment in the last couple of months. These have included denial of access to clients, refusal to disclose the whereabouts of clients, chasing lawyers out of police stations, assaulting, arresting and detaining lawyers."

Human rights defenders and journalists are often harassed by the Zimbabwean security forces who are acting on behalf of the government. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly have been greatly curtailed during the recent political, economic and social deterioration within the country.

To see Beatrice Mtetwa's shocking testimony of the incident and a copy of the petition for the release of the two imprisoned lawyers, click here:

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