THE Civil Society Constitutional Agenda (CiSCA) contends that President Edgar Lungu’s intention to invoke Articles 30 and 31 of our Constitution to declare a state of emergency is totally misplaced and a knee jerk reaction to an incident that has not even been investigated.
CiSCA profoundly regrets the fire that gutted the city market during the long weekend and deeply sympathises with the affected traders. We do not, however, accept that that the incident of the fire at city market is enough justification for the declaration of a public emergency or declaration relating to threatened emergency. We therefore strongly urge the President not to use his constitutional powers under article 30, declaration of public emergency and 31, declaration relating to threatened emergency loosely.
CiSCA would like to remind President Lungu that the crime of arson is adequately covered by the Penal Code and is far from the realm of reasons for declaration of a State of emergency real or threatened.
We would like to further remind the President that suspending any of our fundamental freedoms is essentially suspending our dignity and humanity. Further, we want to categorically remind him that his executive powers are derived from us the citizens of this country under Article 90, and not the other way around.
Furthermore, we want to state that a declaration of public emergency is enforced by the police whom we have already seen disregarding with impunity some aspects of Article 15 which protects all of us, including suspected criminals, from inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment or other like treatment which is a non-derogable human right and cannot be suspended even in a state of public emergency. We do not believe that the police is adequately prepared to manage such an emergency considering that the previous state of emergency was 26 years ago and at a time when trust and confidence in our police service is at an all-time low.
CiSCA would like to inform fellow citizens that if and when the emergency is declared, there are rights that cannot be suspended even in an emergency. The full protection of these rights that cannot be suspended is impossible to implement in a state of emergency without infringing on them because human rights are inter-related, interdependent and indivisible. The rights to life, Article 12, to be protected from slavery and forced labour, Article 14 and to be protected from inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment, Article 15 cannot be suspended. We urge citizens not to be afraid because human rights are not a sovereignty issue and have not been since 10th December 1948.
CiSCA hopes and prays that the affected traders will be adequately supported to rebuild their businesses again. A clear and transparent mechanism should be put in place to ensure that whatever support is provided goes only to those who are affected. CiSCA prays that measures will be put in place to prevent occurrences of fires in public places and bylaws that guarantee the security and safety of people and property will be enforced.
John H. Mambo Chairperson – #CivilSocietyConstitutionAgenda #CiSCA