Dear Editor of the Daily Mail,
I read with amusement your May 7 story entitled, “Henry’s lawyer may have boobed.” There was indeed boobing, but it was by your source, attorney Kelvin Bwalya, and your reporter who apparently accepted Bwalya’s misinformation without checking.
The story contends that Robert Amsterdam, international attorney for Mr. Henry Banda, misdirected his letters to the United Nations by sending them to a special rapporteur rather than to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “Navanethem Pilly.” (Her name is in fact Pillay, not “Pilly.”)
Apparently both Bwalya and your reporter are unaware that all urgent communications to UN special rapporteurs are properly addressed to the rapporteurs at Ms. Pillay’s office, via her special email address designated for such purposes. Mr. Amsterdam’s letter on behalf of Mr. Banda, as well as the letter I co-signed on behalf of Mr. Amsterdam, were both directed to the proper recipients, namely the special rapporteurs at the High Commissioner’s office.
Your journalist further reports, uncritically, Mr. Bwalya’s claim that good criminal lawyers “would never address a criminal matter to a civil court.” I don’t know what kind of law Mr. Bwalya practices, but he is clearly not an experienced international human rights lawyer, as is Mr. Amsterdam. When purported criminal proceedings and threats, such as those made by Zambian officials against Messers. Banda and Amsterdam, violate their human rights to freedom of association (Mr. Banda) and to defend human rights (Mr. Amsterdam), the appropriate international remedy is precisely to appeal to the UN rapporteurs on those subjects, via the High Commissioner’s office.
I have taught international human rights law for more than two decades at university law schools in the United States (currently Notre Dame Law School) and I lecture in universities in many countries. If your reporter would care to check his facts the next time he ventures into the subject, I would be happy to address any questions he may have.
Professor of Law
Watchdog comment: In 2010, Kelvin Bwalya was barred from practising law in Zambia for professional misconduct. Here is how the Post Newspaper reported the matter: http://www.postzambia.com/post-read_article.php?articleId=5417
And below is what the Daily Mail published:
Henry’s lawyer may have boobed
By JERRY MUNTHALI
DENTS and cracks have started to emerge in the armour of self-styled international lawyer Robert Amsterdam who is representing Henry, the fugitive son of former President Rupiah Banda currently on an Interpol wanted list.
This follows the outspoken lawyer’s “misdirection” of the United Nations(UN) appeal which he has sent to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Maini Kiai and others at the Geneva UN offices instead of directing the “pre-mature” and “pre-emptive” appeal to the UN high commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pilly as Henry continues to elude Interpol.
The misdirection came to light when the Daily Mail tried to confirm whether the UN had in fact received the appeal the often emotionally charged Mr Amsterdam said he had written and were told that queries of such nature would under normal procedure go to the UN high commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pilly and not where Amsterdam sent it.
The lapse has prompted prominent Lusaka lawyer Kelvin Bwalya to advise Henry to “find another lawyer locally who may even be cheaper because Mr Amsterdam’s credibility is really under question here…if he can address an appeal wrongly, you may just wonder what else he is getting wrong as he continues to get paid big. This is a waste of money.”
Mr Bwalya said criminal lawyers worth their salt would never address a criminal matter to a civil court, for example, “because these are basics that even rookie lawyers must know as they practise. If you get a lawyer that can’t address a matter to the right address, then you have a serious problem as a client…you may be throwing good money into a bottomless pit of losses but if you have lots of money to burn, then it’s ok.”
Mr Bwalya said the pattern being established about the character of Mr Amsterdam could actually mean that “we have probably given this man more credit than he deserves,” as a so-called international lawyer.
Henry is wanted by Interpol following his links to the corruption-marred sale of Zamtel and the engagement of some East African countries that supplied petroleum products to Zambia during his father’s presidency.
He argues that he will be arrested if he gives himself up for questioning but police who last week interrogated and released his elder brother, Andrew, said through spokesperson Charity Munganga Chanda that Andrew’s freedom is testimony that they are not personalising or targeting a family for persecution.
“We are a professional police,” Ms Chanda told the Daily Mail last week. “we don’t detain each and every person we interrogate without exhausting the due process. So, if Henry is innocent, let him come and talk to us and nothing will happen to him.”