11 December 2012

Zambia: Political Crisis in Zambia Worsened By Arrests of Key Opposition Figures, Says Robert Amsterdam

press release

London — The Zambian government of President Michael Sata has violated local and international law with the December 10th arrest of opposition leader Nevers Mumba, according to a legal defence alliance.

Under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Zambia has been a State Party since 1984, 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), Article 19 (freedom of opinion and expression), Article 22 (freedom of association) and Article 25 (a) (right to take part in the conduct of public affairs), said Robert Amsterdam, international lawyer and counsel to the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR).

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."

According to media reports, Dr. Mumba, who is president of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), 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." Later, four journalists were also arrested 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.

On 11 December, police also arrested Edward Mumbi, who serves as advisor to Hakainde Hichilema of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND). In response to these arrests, opposition MPs walked out of parliament today in protest to go to State House to confront President Sata.

"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.'"

Amsterdam continued: "We are calling upon the media and international community to take note of this ruthless assault on the rights of Zambian people, which if left unchecked will surely only worsen."

Representing a broad array of opposition parties, political figures, and private citizens, Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR) is a legal defence alliance formed in Zambia in the fall of 2012 in response to increasing harassment and interference by the authorities and related parties. More information on the CDDR's activities can be read at cddr-zambia.org.

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