Chifire 6-year- sentence harsh, disturbing – Miti
The Alliance for Community Action has described the six-year prison sentence meted out on human rights activist Gregory Chifire as extremely harsh and disturbing.
Executive director Laura Miti said Zambians must look at the bigger picture of the Chifire contempt judgment as it had become a case law that other judges would use in future.
“I have found the judgment by the Supreme Court of Gregory Chifire extremely harsh and very disturbing because it was a case in which a court of first instance and there is no appeal for the offence. And then they go for a very harsh sentence of six years. In a situation in which the Penal Code states that it’s six months but they relied on another case that allowed them latitude. So I think in this case, they have created a precedence which other people can rely on,” Miti said.
“Sometimes as a country, our problem is that we focus too much on who is involved. In this case, we are focusing on Gregory Chifire and we are focusing on the nine [Supreme Court] judges. No! The big issue is this; the kind of Justice we want. He actually wrote a letter to the Chief Justice [Irene Mambilima]. The content of that letter ends up with him in court, ends up with him facing a six-year sentence, which is just overly punishing. So my question is: is this what we want? I would like that judgement to pass in terms of rules of natural justice.”
Miti also expressed concern over the Law Association Zambia’s position on the matter, saying the association should have taken time to interpret the entire judgement.
“LAZ as an independent body should have stood apart interrogating and breaking the judgment apart on why they agree with it or why they don’t agree with it; what are the demerits and merits? Now they just give this wholesale support. On what basis are they supporting it?” Miti asked. “They are saying they are supporting it because it is sending the message. That is not LAZ’s job to worry about what message is being sent. Instead, they [LAZ] should say why the entire judgment is right.”
Miti noted that lawyers were attacked in the same judgment and LAZ was supposed to come to their aid.
“I wish LAZ could have interrogated the judgment to protect its own lawyers because the lawyers were attacked by the Supreme Court, very severely by the Supreme Court in that judgment. And then the LAZ president [Eddie Mwitwa] stands up and celebrates it, saying it is very good!” Miti wondered. “It feels like a trade unionist who stands up to issue a statement that ‘it is very good you fired my member’. So I think Eddie Mwitwa and his LAZ should break down that judgment and look at it in terms of jurisprudence, look at it in terms of rules of natural justice, and tell us why he thinks it is right.”
Miti urged Chifire not to take it personal when dealing with issues that affect the nation but ask critical questions on the wrongs happening in the country.
“Dealing with this issue we should avoid this kind of personal attacks. We should avoid going for the nine judges. The issue is not the nine judges, the issue here is to ask questions about whether this is the kind of law that we want,” said Miti. “Is this the kind of environment we want, Again, I call on Gregory Chifire, you might be upset but you cannot call judges stupid. So it feels like a country in which we have all become entirely emotional.”
Source: The Mast