It’s very clear that the police are not administering the public order Act in a manner that can be said to be fair and impartial. It is very clear that those in the ruling Patriotic Front are treated differently by the police when it comes to the administration of the public order Act.
Whereas the police are demanding seven days notice from UPND members who want to demonstrate over Zaffico, it’s very clear that Patriotic Front members did not give seven days notice but were allowed to protest, were allowed to go ahead with their “solidarity protest”.
UPND members have the the right to come together and peacefully express their views on Zaffico. And the police must allow them to demonstrate over Zaffico.
This right is fundamental to keeping us free. The police must let UPND members protest peacefully and hold those in government to account over Zaffico. This freedom is closely linked to freedom of expression as it applies to protests, marches and demonstrations, counter-demonstrations – but, of course, it does not protect intentionally violent protest.
The police shouldn’t interfere with UPND members’ right to demonstrate just because they disagree with their views, because it’s likely to be inconvenient and cause a nuisance or because there might be tension between them and those in the Patriotic Front and its government.
Instead, the police must take reasonable steps to enable them to demonstrate and protect them from disruption by others. We accept that the right to demonstrate can be limited in certain circumstances. But any such limitation must:
be covered by law, be necessary and proportionate, pursue the interests of national security or public safety, the prevention of disorder or crime, the protection of health or morals, the protection of others’ rights and freedoms.
It’s not necessarily a breach of the right to demonstrate if the police require you to give seven days notice of plans in advance, as long as notification doesn’t become an obstacle.
Clearly, any restrictions must be backed up by convincing and compelling reasoning.
Equality before the law, also known as equality under the law, equality in the eyes of the law, legal equality, or legal egalitarianism, is the principle that each independent being must be treated equally by the law – principle of isonomy – and that all are subject to the same laws of justice – due process. Therefore, the law must guarantee that no individual nor group of individuals should be privileged or discriminated against by the police. Equality before the law is one of the basic principles of liberalism. This principle arises from various important and complex questions concerning equality, fairness, and justice.
Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”
Thus, everyone must be treated equally under the law regardless of political affiliation, or other characteristics, without privilege, discrimination or bias.
Clearly, things are not okay with the way the police are administering the public order Act.
Police officers are both respected and suspected, hated and loved, feared and courted for favour, maligned and praised. They wield tremendous power and are capable of depriving others of their freedom, their reputations, and their lives. Most of us assume, in our dealings with police officers, that they are all competent, honest, professional, and psychologically stable. This is true of the majority of officers, but there are also officers who are dishonest, corrupt, incompetent, and psychologically unstable. Some use their positions to manipulate things in favour of those in power – they use their status as police officers for wrongful gain or benefit; favouritism – granting immunity from police action to certain citizens; prejudice – treating certain groups differently, particularly those in the opposition and independent civil society organisations, because their influence within the political structure is not likely to cause trouble for the officer.
No set of regulations can address every possible circumstance, so police officers are given discretion to decide which laws will be enforced, as well as when, where, and how. Officers decide whether or not to arrest, prosecute, impose punishment, and treat citizens fairly. Therefore, individual and institutional ethics become critical.