UN Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers defends Sangwa

THE United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges & Lawyers Diego García-Sayán has strongly condemned the Zambian Judiciary’s move to bar Constitutional Lawyer John Sangwa State Counsel from appearing before any court.

On Friday, the Judiciary barred Sangwa from appearing before any court in Zambia pending determination of its complaint against him to the Law Association of Zambia. 

In a notice to all judges of the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, Registrars and Magistrates, Acting Registrar Prince Mwiinga announced that Sangwa would no longer be allowed to appear before any court. 

“This serves to inform all Hon Addressees that by direction of the Judiciary, Mr John Sangwa SC, an Advocate of the High Court, practicing under the firm of Simeza Sangwa and Associates will no longer be allowed to appear before any court in Zambia until further notice,” read the notice.

“This action has been taken following a complaint of professional misconduct made by the Judiciary to the Law Association of Zambia against the said Mr John Sangwa SC.”

Sangwa has in the last few weeks been insisting that President Edgar Lungu is ineligible to stand in 2021. He has also insisted that all ConCourt judges do not qualify to hold their current positions. 

But in a tweet, García-Sayán said the Judiciary’s move was a blatant violation of human rights.

He argued that lawyers were supposed to maintain their professional and intellectual independence.

“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,” tweeted García-Sayán.

And the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights (ABA justice defenders), in separate tweets, noted that a hearing should have been carried out to determine the Sangwa’s fate.

“Suspension of #Zambia lawyer John Sangwa w/out a hearing raises serious due process &freedom of expression concerns. Sangwa has been a strong critic of proposed Constitutional amendments & has publicly questioned qualifications of appointed judges,” tweeted ABA.

“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!”

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