Beatrice Mtetwa is Zimbabwe’s most prominent human rights lawyer. For more than 20 years, she has fought against injustice, defended press freedom, and upheld the rule of law, accepting difficult cases that other lawyers have declined for fear of political reprisal. Despite experiencing harassment, assault, violence, and arrest, she remains a steadfast advocate for human rights, women’s equality and advancement, and social justice. Partisan application of the rule of law by security forces and the judiciary is commonplace in Zimbabwe. Ms. Mtetwa emerged as a defender of civil society, a protector of press freedom, and a staunch advocate for the rule of law, defending members of non-ZANU-PF parties, civil society activists, and others who were harassed, arrested, and in some cases tortured in the course of their important work.
Her work to fight the abuse of power and her public stance on the importance of an independent judiciary has meant that she too has been a victim of human rights abuses. She has been threatened, harassed, arrested, and beaten while in police custody. Her courage and fearlessness in the face of human rights abuse inspired the documentary, “Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law,” a film funded by the U.S. Institute of Peace that highlights her significant contributions to upholding the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
Ms. Mtetwa’s efforts have helped create a space for civil society to work in Zimbabwe. She has used the judicial process to fight measures limiting independence of NGOs, defend civil society activists, challenge dubious electoral results, and protect journalists. For these efforts, undertaken at great personal risk, Ms. Mtetwa has received multiple human rights awards around the globe. We are proud that the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award is now among these richly deserved accolades.
About the Author: Gretchen Franke serves as a Public Diplomacy Desk Officer for Southern Africa in the Bureau of African Affairs.
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