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Beatrice Mtetwa’s efforts get international recognition . . . as human rights lawyer decries situation in Zimbabwe

By Nokuthaba Nkomo

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, pictured, has been honoured internationally among women making outstanding contributions in their fields around the world.

Top Zimbabwean Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa

Mtetwa was one of the 21 international honourees recognised by the Harvard Law School as powerful voices in their respective fields.

This comes as the law school celebrated its sixth Harvard Law International Women’s Day Portrait Exhibit during Women’s Day where remarkable work done by women around the world in areas of law and policy were showcased.

Speaking to the Daily News on her recognition, Mtetwa said it’s inspiring to have her work appreciated at local and international level. She, however, expressed disappointment that despite her contributions, human rights violations are spiralling out of control in Zimbabwe.

“I have received various recognitions both locally and internationally and it’s really inspiring but I’m not seeing any change on the ground. If anything, the human rights situation is actually worsening in Zimbabwe,” she said.

Government was recently blasted for human rights violations following its crackdown on protesters who took part in a three-day national shutdown organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.Mtetwa has made a name for herself internationally through fighting against human rights violations in the country.

In 2013, she was arrested under former president Robert Mugabe’s regime for obstructing justice.

Mtetwa was apprehended at the home of late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s chief legal adviser, Thabani Mpofu, during a police raid and was accused of allegedly shouting at police officers and taking photographs of them as they searched the house.

Her eight-day detention caught the ire of the international community as lawyers, civil society groups and politicians across the globe condemned the police action and demanded her immediate release.

Despite the persecution, the fearless lawyer, who defended a number of people arrested during Mugabe’s reign, has remained unshaken.

In 2014, she was awarded the American Annual International Women of Courage Award which recognises women who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk around the globe.

Since its inception in 2007, the award has honoured 76 women from 49 different countries, with Mtetwa being the third Zimbabwean to receive it after Jestina Mukoko and Jenni Williams.

The top human rights lawyer has spent decades fighting human rights abuses and corruption in Zimbabwe and was once named Human Rights Lawyer of the year in 2003.

In 2011, she won the American Inamori Ethics Prize for her efforts to fight against injustices in the country.

The Inamori Ethics Prize honours outstanding international ethical leaders whose actions and influence have greatly improved the conditions of humankind.

Mtetwa was the fourth recipient of the award after other international winners including Ireland’s first female president Mary Robinson.

She has also made positive contributions in the media industry by defending journalists and fighting for media freedom.

Along the way, Mtetwa has suffered intimidation, physical abuse and arrests for her boldness. Daily News.