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Zimbabwe Top Rights Lawyer to Challenge Gov’t on Prison Conditions

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa
Zimbabwe’s top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa says she will soon launch a constitutional challenge to force authorities to improve conditions in the country’s prisons.

Mtetwa was speaking at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC where a documentary focusing on her life and work was screened.

The human rights lawyer, who was arrested recently for allegedly obstructing justice and abusing police officers, said women are held under “degrading and inhumane” conditions in Zimbabwe’s prisons.

“The prison system is bad and for me the best thing that happened to me was to get arrested because I will be and I have already started on this,” said Mtetwa.

“... And I’ll bring a constitutional challenge on the prison conditions, certainly on the women’s side because it is inhumane and degrading.”

She said women prisoners were locked up late afternoon in cells without toilets, only allowed out the following morning.

Mtetwa said the country’s judiciary system needs an overhaul.

She said the country’s agricultural sector was improving as well as the tourism sector.

The film, Beatrice Mtetwa and Rule of Law, produced by Boston-based Lorie Conway highlights the difficulties faced by Mtetwa and her colleagues on a daily basis trying to defend clients, mostly rights and political activists and journalists.

The rights lawyer said she will continue to use the constitution to fight for the rights of ordinary Zimbabweans.

Also featured in the film are some of the people that Mtetwa has represented in the past, among them Jestina Mukoko of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, MDC politician Roy Bennett, former information minister Jonathan Moyo and a number of journalists.