The legal defence alliance says the Zambian government under the leadership of President Michael Sata has violated local and international law after the arrest of opposition MMD leader Nevers Mumba and some party members.
International lawyer and counsel to the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR) Robert Amsterdam said the unlawful jailing of Dr. Mumba by the police represents violations of his rights under Article 9.1 (right to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention) and Article 19 (freedom of opinion and expression), Article 22 (freedom of association) .
He said also that Article 25 (a) supports the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and political Rights (ICCPR) to which Zambia was a Party since 1984 when she ratified the convention.
Mr Amsterdam further argued that the Zambian government’s arbitrary arrests of opposition members represent a violation of the principles enshrined in the African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights under Article 13(1), which states that “Every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law.”
“This politically motivated arrest is only the latest event in a series of repressive actions by the Patriotic Front administration against the opposition, which have curtailed the rights of citizens to free expression and association and damaged Zambia’s rule of law,” said Amsterdam.
“It is our intention to document these flagrant abuses of civil rights by the Sata government and present briefs before Zambia’s international partners,” he said.
Dr. Mumba was arrested by the Zambian police on 10 December, during a visit to Kitwe on the Copperbelt.
Police spokespersons accused Dr. Mumba of “unlawful assembly” and “conduct likely to breach the peace and four journalists were also arrested after attempting to cover the story.
The arrest comes after months of harassment of the MMD by the ruling party, including an attempted dissolution and a scandal involving a turncoat national secretary who attempted to invalidate Dr. Mumba’s Presidency of the party, according to the CDDR.
“Given that President Sata has personally intervened in the judicial process to accuse opponents while at the same time instructing anti-corruption authorities to ask his permission before prosecuting his ministers, we cannot expect fair treatment from the authorities with regard to Dr. Mumba,” said Amsterdam.
“The CDDR stands behind other civil society organizations, such as the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ), which recently described the Zambian government’s conduct as a ‘breakdown of rule of law.” he said.
He called upon the media and international community to take note of this ruthless assault on the rights of Zambian people, saying that if left unchecked the situation would surely only worsen.