Let’s all defend Kambwili’s human rights

Edgar Lungu and his minions have gone to extremes in their violations of human rights. Today no citizen of this country is guaranteed the enjoyment of freedom of assembly. It has been turned into a favour, discretion given by Edgar and his minions to those they find politically less harmful. The case of Chishimba Kambwili deserves the attention of us all. It seems Edgar and his minions have decided to deny Kambwili the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly – a human right. They are not allowing Kambwili to participate in any political rally.

They even deny him his freedom of expression. Radio stations are being ordered not to host him! The wrangles they have sponsored in NDC cannot be used to deny Kambwili his human rights. Whatever the status, or lack of it, of Kambwili in NDC, it cannot be the basis to deny him his freedom of assembly and expression. You don’t need to belong to a political party or hold a position in it to enjoy your freedom of assembly and expression.

They have not stopped Felix Mutati and Nevers Mumba from exercising these freedoms because of leadership conflicts in MMD.

This is no longer about Kambwili; it’s about all of us. The violation of Kambwili’s human rights, if not challenged and stopped, will tomorrow be used as a precedent to deny all of us our freedom of assembly, expression and association. If we don’t stop them, the bells tolling on Kambwili today will toll on all us. Therefore, the violation of Kambwili’s human rights is an injustice against all of us. And as such it calls for our individual and collective response.

This is not about Kambwili; it’s about us all.  It doesn’t matter whether one agrees or doesn’t agree with Kambwili. If we can’t stand up and defend Kambwili’s human rights, we will not be able to defend our own when they are under attack. Those who are incapable of fighting for others will not be able to fight for themselves.

We are in this situation today because of our judiciary’s inability to defend our human rights. We have a judiciary that protects the political interests of those in power – their appointing authorities – and not our human rights as citizens. Many of our judges are corrupt and fear antagonising those in power. We, therefore, place our last hope on the Human Rights Commission, whose mission is to establish in our country a society that respects and upholds human rights for all persons.

The Human Rights Commission, as a National Human Rights Institution, is supposed to seeks to contribute to the promotion of full enjoyment and protection of human rights for all people in Zambia; through advocacy and promotion of human rights, investigation and appropriate redress of human rights violations, and monitoring of compliance with human rights standards.

The Human Rights Commission is supposed to serve us all with impartiality, integrity, transparency and accountability while upholding virtues of independence in the discharge of its duties. The functions of the Human Rights Commission are prescribed under the HRC Act, Chapter 48 of the Laws of Zambia.

In Sections 9 of the Human Rights Commission Act, the HRC is mandated to, among many other things, investigate human rights violations; investigate any maladministration of justice; propose effective measures to prevent human rights abuse; and make recommendations to redress existing problems. It is also mandated to do all such things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the functions of the Commission.

The right to form associations and other groups, as well as to meet or talk with people individually without government interference, is identified as a fundamental freedom under Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is an essential component of any society.

This freedom can be exercised by peacefully protesting unjust government policies, or simply forming human connections, in person or online, on issues of common interest. But in more than half of the world, this right is regularly infringed upon by governments, especially when it takes a form that antidemocratic regimes find threatening.

We, therefore, call on the Human Rights Commission to step in and help halt Edgar’s human rights abuses.

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