THE Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) says President Edgar Lungu has not declared a State of Emergency or threatened State of Emergency on account of the COVID-19 pandemic so there is no need for citizens to be beaten under any circumstances.

In a statement, the LAZ Council said gradual breaches of the law especially by those entrusted to enforce or safeguard the law, if left unchecked, was a recipe for lawlessness.

“LAZ has also observed various incidences in the media of people being whipped defenselessly and being hounded from various locations by police officers in the company of some government officials. In view of the statutory duty imposed on LAZ under Section 4 of the Law Association of Zambia Act, Chapter 31 of the Laws of Zambia, to seek the advancement of the Rule of Law and of the rights and liberties of the individual, we wish to strongly urge relevant authorities to exercise maximum restraint in the use of disproportionate force to police the COVID-19 measures as doing otherwise undermines the Rule of Law. Every Zambian has inalienable rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights under our Constitution. One fundamental right is the freedom from torture which is provided for under Article 15 of the Constitution as follows: “No person shall be subjected to torture, or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other like treatment,” read the statement.

“There are no claw backs on this particular freedom and public health can never be justification for whipping people. In addition, LAZ notes that the President has not declared a State of Emergency or Threatened State of Emergency on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, no citizen or inhabitant of our Nation should be beaten or treated in a manner that inflicts torture or can be considered inhumane under any circumstances. Such action is unlawful and should be discouraged as relevant arms of Government are still available to exercise their statutory functions. LAZ is cognizant of the pandemic we are faced with as a country, and the world at large, and the need for adherence to guidelines issued by the Government by every person, without exception. However, isolated but gradual breaches of the law, especially by those entrusted to enforce or safeguard the law, if left unchecked is a recipe for lawlessness and ultimately erodes the Rule of Law and Constitutionalism, whose effects are too grave to comprehend,”

LAZ called on Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo to execute his duties within the confines of the law.

“Enforcement of the law or a Presidential directive should not be done in a manner that breaks the law and increases or promotes anarchy. Enforcing the law or Presidential directives using unlawful means is not only illegal, but hypocritical. Accordingly, LAZ calls on the Minister of Lusaka Province and all other authorities to operate within the confines of the law even as they enforce adherence to the provisions of the law, and the Presidential directives. All steps aimed at combating COVID-19 should be based on the law without exception,” read the statement.

“In furtherance of these enforcement initiatives, LAZ notes with serious concern the alarming statements made by the Minister of Lusaka Province, Honourable Bowman Lusambo in an interview held recently on ZNBC TV 1’s Kwacha Programme in which the Minister stated inter alia, that “… we have stopped arresting these people, we will just be beating them…”, in reference to persons conducting themselves in defiant of the Presidential directives,”

LAZ stated that there was no justification in breaking the law in an attempt to enforce the Presidential directives.

“LAZ has also noted with serious apprehension, statements attributed to Honourable Lusambo and circulating on social media in which he disparaged the said Press Release from the Human Rights Commission on the need to observe the respect for human rights during the enforcement of guidelines on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Even if the Minister may mean well, LAZ asserts that there is no justification in breaking the law in an attempt to enforce the Presidential directives. Another incident is that in which the Police Spokesperson stated on a Television Program on ZNBC that the Police would whip all persons found conducting themselves in a manner that was considered to be in defiance of the Presidential directives,” read the statemnet.

The Council noted with concern that some police officers did not wear recommended protective attire while they carried out COVID-19 enforcement activities.

“LAZ is also concerned by the fact that in all the observed incidences, police officers were not wearing personal recommended protective attire whilst carrying out the COVID-19 enforcement activities. This is a danger not only to themselves but the persons they were handling,” it stated.

LAZ disclosed that disclosed that they wrote a letter to government proposing how it could fight the pandemic using legal instruments.

“LAZ also commends the Government for the efforts that it is making in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. In exercise of the statutory powers within its mandate, LAZ recently wrote to the government and made proposals on how the government could fight the pandemic using various legal instruments at its disposal. However, LAZ has noted with great concern that after the Republican President’s directives, which were made in his address to the Nation on 25th March 2020 and 9th April 2020, different government agencies have taken the initiative to enforce adherence to the ban on social establishments such as bars and restaurants as contained in the directives using various means, including whipping, which is well documented on numerous platforms,” LAZ stated.

LAZ called on members of the public to act responsibly by adhering to regulations on COVID-19.

“That said, LAZ commends the Inspector General of Police for the Press Release of 13th April 2020 in which he has directed Police Officers to operate within the confines of the law as they enforce COVID-19 preventive measures. It is LAZ’s hope that police officers will strictly adhere to the directive issued by the Inspector General of Police. LAZ also calls on all citizens and residents of our God-given Nation to act responsibly by adhering to regulations on COVID-19 not only for their sake, but for the sake of all of us and to help the Government to eradicate COVID-19 from our Country. Combating COVID-19 starts with individuals taking responsibility for themselves and for others, for the greater good.” stated LAZ.