United States Senator Ben Cardin has written to President Edgar Lungu, informing him that the latest American State Department Country Report for Human Rights indicates that the Zambian government has taken selective steps to prosecute those who opposed the ruling party.
In a statement released by the United States Committee on Foreign Relations yesterday, the ranking member of the American Senate called for the release of detained UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, adding that his arrest was politically motivated.
Below is the letter that Senator Cardin wrote to President Lungu.
Dear President Lungu:
I write with concern about the detention of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema in the wake of the raid on his residence on April 10, and urge you to ensure that he is treated humanely, in accordance with the rights put forth in the Zambian constitution and the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, to which Zambia is a signatory.
Zambia is one of Africa’s most established democracies, with a long tradition of political pluralism, respect for human rights and democracy, and peaceful resolution of conflict. I am concerned that Mr. Hichilema’s detention signals the potential closing of political space in your country. During last year’s general elections, the Independent Broadcasting Authority suspended licenses for three broadcast stations and raided a newspaper, ostensibly for non-tax compliance. There were also arbitrary arrests of opposition leaders and journalists.
The most recent State Department Country Report for Human Rights indicates that your government has only taken “selective and halting steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed these abuses, targeting mostly those who opposed the ruling party.” I urge you to take proactive steps to bring an end to politically motivated arrests, and ensure that officials who engage in such actions are held accountable in accordance with Zambian law. I also hope that you and all political actors will exercise restraint, respect the rule of law and follow due process, as expected by the Zambian people.
The Senator also raises Hichilema’s case with Capitol Hill Press Corps.