Fab Female Friday: Beatrice Mtetwa

Beatrice Mtwetwa, Jay Madorsky (Natasha’s uncle), and Natasha Madorsky

As the most prominent human rights lawyer in Zimbabwe, Beatrice Mtetwa has dedicated her life to defending the rights of journalists from all over the world.
This is not an easy feat under the oppressive, 33-year dictatorship in the country. Beatrice has been arrested and brutally beaten on several occasions by Zimbabwean police.

In 2003, Beatrice was able to secure a court order to prevent the deportation of Guardian reporter Andrew Meldrum, presenting it to security officials at Harare International Airport only minutes before Meldrum’s plane took off. When the government cracked down on the press leading up to the 2008 election, Beatrice jumped into action. She successfully defended many journalists, including New York Times reporter Barry Bearak and British freelance journalist Steven Bevan.

Beatrice has received much international recognition for her hard work. I had the honor of meeting Beatrice in 2011, when she visited Cleveland to receive the Inamori Ethics Prize from Case Western Reserve University. She was dignified and friendly, humble about her victories but deeply passionate about her work.

This past Sunday, Beatrice was arrested yet again. Zimbabwean police began searching the home of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, one of Beatrice’s clients and the leader of the Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change. When Beatrice demanded to see a valid search warrant, she was arrested on the spot on charges of “obstructing justice.”

Though four of Africa’s most prominent legal organizations and a Zimbabwean court justice have demanded Beatrice’s freedom, the police intend to keep her imprisoned for at least eight nights. I encourage you to follow this story in the news, and learn more about what others are doing.

"I abhor injustice and I fight it wherever I see it," Beatrice said last September here in Cleveland. "I am driven to defend people who are struggling for their basic human rights. ... I am optimistic that the rule of law will be restored in Zimbabwe in my lifetime."

Beatrice’s courage and dedication to fighting for justice is an inspiration to me. I am confident that as soon as her own freedom is restored, Beatrice’s voice will continue to be one of the strongest in the global outcry for just government and respect for human rights.

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