In a statement, Amnesty International’s director for east and southern Africa Deprose Muchena, said the arrest of civil rights activist Laura Miti, Bornwell Mwewa and Fumba Chama, popularly known as Pilato in December after addressing a youth gathering, was an indication that authorities in the country were using intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders.
“Zambian authorities have escalated their crackdown on human rights by bringing trumped-up charges against two activists, who took a stand against the arrest and harassment of hip-hop artist Pilato, as the two are due in court. The two activists, Laura Miti and Bornwell Mwewa, are facing politically motivated charges of ‘assault on a police officer’ and ‘disorderly conduct.’ They were arrested on December 21 after they travelled to the city of Livingstone in support of Pilato, aka Fumba Chama, after he was arrested for ‘unlawful assembly’ for addressing a youth gathering,” Muchena stated.
“The charges against Laura and Bornwell fit into a much wider pattern of suppression of peaceful dissent that we have seen in Zambia in recent years. Authorities are using intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders, activists and political opponents as a strategy to instill fear across Zambian society. All charges against Laura and Bornwell must be immediately dropped.”
Muchena said human rights activists in Zambia were being targeted for demanding accountability and challenging corruption.
“Laura has been charged with disorderly conduct at a police station and two counts of assaulting two police officers. Bornwell has been charged with disorderly conduct at a police station. They were both detained following their arrest and later released. Human rights activists have been increasingly targeted in Zambia recently for demanding accountability and challenging corruption,” stated Muchena.
“Instead of continuously unleashing the State security machinery against activists and political opponents, Zambian authorities should be building a society where everyone can freely express themselves without fear of reprisals. The criminal justice system should not be used to silence dissent and settle scores against political opponents. The authorities must end this growing repression and ensure full respect for the human rights of everyone.”