The Southern African Lawyers Development Community Association (SADC LA) has learnt with a deep sense of shock and regret of the staging of a politically motivated march and siege of the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ). The march and siege of the Bar Association’s offices in broad daylight is the height of assault on the rule of law and independence of the legal profession in Zambia, the Region and beyond.
The independence of the legal profession is a sacrosanct principle upon which the upholding of the rule of law and defence of the constitution stand. The legal profession is the last bastion of defence against violation of human rights for all other citizen classes. The fact that a physical attack has been successfully demonstrated against the mother body of the legal profession in Zambia suggests volumes about the potential deterioration of the rule of law and ultimate vulnerability of ordinary citizens in Zambia. This situation is untenable, and must be halted and reversed with immediate effect;
The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers establish safeguards for lawyers acting in the course of their duties: i
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers
(a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;
(b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and
(c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics”.ii
The Basic Principles further stipulate that “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities”.iii States shall also take measures to ensure that lawyers involved in the complaint or in the investigation of human rights violations are protected against ill-treatment, intimidations or reprisals.”iv
Principle 24 buttresses the fact that lawyers like all other citizens have the right to freedom of association. In terms of the same principles, it is provided that lawyers shall be entitled to form and join self‐governing professional associations to represent their interests, promote their continuing education and training and protect their professional integrity. Further that the executive body of the professional associations shall be elected by its members and shall exercise its functions without external interference. v The march and siege on the LAZ offices is viewed as detracting from the right of lawyers to voluntarily belong to an association of their choice.
Section 18 of the Constitution of Zambia establishes the right to protection of the law by guaranteeing access to legal representation. In the same spirit the section guarantees exercise of that right without fear or restriction on the part of citizens and by implication, legal counsel. The attack on LAZ is an attack on the Supreme law of Zambia and a reversal of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Zambian people.
SADC LA lauds the Zambian Police Service for acting to place the CEO and Staff of LAZ under Police protection. SADC LA further calls upon the government of Zambia to swiftly investigate and bring to book the culprits behind the unprecedented attack.
The Association stands with the legal profession of Zambia in calling for the immediate restoration of and in re-asserting the independence of the legal profession in line with global tenets.
President, SADC LA
i International Commission of Jurists: International Principles on the Independence and Accountability of Judges, Lawyers and Prosecutors; Practitioners Guide No. 1
ii United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, doc. cit., Principle 16. Other relevant instruments
on the role of lawyers are: the Council of Europe’s Recommendation No. R (2000) 21 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the freedom of exercise of the profession of lawyer and the Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa, Principle 16
iii Ibid principle 17
iv See, for example, Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, article 13; Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, Principle 15; Principles on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Principle 3
v Ibid principle 25