UN Special Rapporteur condemns authorities in Zambia over Sangwa
Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers under the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) has condemned the authorities in Zambia for arbitrary action against lawyer, John Sangwa SC.
The United Nations condemned the Zambian government for the suspension of Sangwa saying basic principles were violated.
This follows an outcry from many quarters over how the state handled the matter. The Judiciary had barred Sangwa from appearing on any court in Zambia accusing him of having issued disrespectable remarks against Judges during his Television discussion program.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges & Lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, condemned the suspension.
“I strongly condemn blatant violations of human rights against Mr John Sangwa. Lawyers must be independent and preserve his lawyer’s professional and intellectual independence with regard to the courts and professional colleagues,” he said.
Meanwhile, the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights (ABA justice defenders) says a hearing should have been carried out to determine the lawyer’s fate.
“Suspension of Zambia lawyer John Sangwa without a hearing raises serious due process and freedom of expression concerns,” says the defenders for justice.
Sangwa has been a strong critic of the proposed constitutional amendment especially Bill number 10. He has also publicly stated that incumbent President Edgar Lungu does not qualify to run in 2021 polls because he has already twice elected as provided by the Constitution.
“The UN Basic Principles on Lawyers stipulates that lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression and to take part in matters of public interest. International standards also provide that only in exceptional circumstances must a lawyer be immediately suspended,” says ABA.
Sangwa was suspended for alleged misconduct. “This serves to inform all the Hon. Addressees that by the direction of the Judiciary Mr John Sangwa S.C, an advocate practising under the firm of Simeza, Sangwa and Associates will not longer be allowed to appear before any court in Zambia until further notice.
“This action has been taken following a complaint of professional misconduct made by the judiciary to the Law Society of Zambia against the said Mr Sangwa, SC,” reads the letter signed by Boniface Mwiinga, acting registrar and director of court operations.
Meanwhile, section 29 on disciplinary powers of Court or judge apart from inquiry by disciplinary committee states that:
“Nothing in this Act contained shall supersede, lessen or interfere with the powers vested in the Chief Justice or any of the Judges of the Court to deal with the misconduct or offences by practitioners.”
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The mandate holder examines the link between the weakening of safeguards for judges and lawyers and the gravity and frequency of human rights violations.