President of Zambia Michael Sata and the ruling Patriotic Front party must halt their violations of civil rights and threats of violence against the political opposition or face international legal action, says the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR).
According to a letter from the CDDR addressed to President Sata, Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba, Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito, and Inspector-General of Police Stella Libongani, the ruling party has abused state institutions in a campaign of persecution against opposition parties and political figures, alleging that their rights to freedom of expression and free association have been violated.
“This unlawful conduct by the government, which includes but is not limited to the violent dispersal of peaceful rallies, arrests of protesters, police blocking meetings of opposition parties, threats of violence and intimidation through manipulation of ethnic tensions, trumped up investigations, censorship of media, and attempts to de-register a party, all contribute to a pattern of unlawful harassment of representing breaches of Zambian law and Zambia’s obligations under international law,” states the CDDR letter.
The letter, which is signed by CDDR member Robert Amsterdam, an international lawyer who represents former President of Zambia Rupiah Banda, cites specific incidents in which the rights of both the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) and the United Party for National Development (UPND) were violated by unlawful state conduct.
As a State Party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the principal African human rights treaty, Zambia must respect all of its African Charter commitments, including the freedoms of its people to express and disseminate opinions (Article 9), their right of free association (Article 10), their right freely to assemble (Article 11), and the right of every citizen “to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law” (Article 13(1)).
“We believe thatZambiadeserves better than a government that wilfully breaks the law to deny citizens their right to participate in politics,” states the CDDR letter. “We believe thatZambiadeserves to have a leadership that is accountable before the law and which upholds the country’s international commitments.”
Representing a broad array of opposition parties, political figures, and private citizens whose rights have been violated by the current Zambian government, the CDDR has announced the opening of a comprehensive investigation including the participation of internationally regarded legal experts. A report detailing the alleged violations of rights shall be distributed to key international bodies.
The full text of the CDDR letter can be read at http://cddr-zambia.org