Civil Society’s call to stop persecution of activists arrested on 29 September 2017

Mr. Given Lubinda
Minister of Justice
National Assembly of Zambia, Parliament Buildings,
P.O. Box 31299, Lusaka
Plot 150/2584
Zambia Email: ;
Minister Stephen Kampyongo
Minister of Home Affairs Email: ;
24 October 2017

Dear Minister Given Lubinda,

Civil Society’s call to stop persecution of activists arrested on 29 September 2017

We, the undermentioned National Associations of Civil Society Organisations, write to express our deep concern over the arbitrary arrests of Mr. Lewis Mwape and five other activists including two females on 29 September 2017, as they protested peacefully en route to the Parliament building. All six were arrested as they called for transparency and accountability over the purchase of 42 fire trucks for forty-two million US dollars. They are all members of civil society groups and individual human rights defenders. The male activists were held at the Emmasdale police station and their female colleagues were detained at the Garden police post before being released.

Mr. Minister, we recognise the fact that Zambia is a democratic state and citizens have the right to request answers and transparency on issues that affect them, including the use of public funds. The arbitrary arrests and detention of these activists and their scheduled court appearance on 27 October 2017 is a violation of their right to freedom of expression and assembly, as guaranteed in the Zambian Constitution, and of the country's regional and international human rights obligations.

We are concerned that any form of judicial persecution of the activists may set a negative precedent wherein those who engage in peaceful protests and express views that are different from those of the government are targeted by the state. It may also compel others who would want to speak out in the future not to do so for fear of persecution. We therefore write to urge the Zambian authorities to ensure that the rule of law is respected and that the rights of all the activists are guaranteed as they appear in court.

Mr. Minister, for some time, we have watched with trepidation, the erosion of fundamental rights in Zambia and we are worried that Zambia’s rich democratic history and its status as a model in Southern Africa is being threatened. On 5 July 2017, for example, President Edgar Lungu proclaimed a state of threatened emergency. We felt at the time that there was no reasonable justification for the executive to invoke emergency powers. These restrictions on fundamental freedoms will reverse the democratic gains made over the years, if they continue.

We therefore urge the government of Zambia and the judiciary to drop the case against Mr. Lewis Mwape and all 5 activists when they appear in court on 27 October.

Association of Development Agencies (ADA), Jamaica
Acción Solidaria on HIV/aids, Venezuela
ARCA, Costa Rica
Burundi Child Rights Coalition, Burundi
CIVILIS Human Rights, Venezuela
CIVICUS, Global Civil Society Alliance
CSO Platform for Climate Change in Vanuatu
Coordinadora Civil, Nicaragua
Ghana Association of Private Voluntary Organisations in Development (GAPVOD)
JOINT Liga de ONGs em Mocambique
KEPA, Finland
Mauritius Council of Social Services (MACOSS)
NGO Federation of Nepal
Rendir Cuentas, Uruguay
SFK/NGO Council of Kenya
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)
Tanzania Association of NGOs (TANGO)
The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI)
Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations
Uganda National NGO Forum