On Friday May 11th, the offices of international lawyer Robert Amsterdam received correspondence from legal representatives of Zambian President Michael Chilufya Sata threatening litigation and demanding compensation in response to public statements made by Mr. Amsterdam.
“President Sata’s crude efforts to silence and bully opponents with threats and intimidation will not work, and we would in fact welcome the opportunity to lead a serious public debate on the unlawful conduct of this administration,” said Mr. Amsterdam. “As a public figure, I had no idea that President Sata was so sensitive to criticism, but given this government’s stance toward freedom of the press, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.”
The letter, which was also addressed to the independent newspaper The Daily Nation, states, “We have been retained by Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata, the current president of Zambia and of the Patriotic Front political party, to act for him in a matter concerning your defamation of him in the article in the Nation Newspaper edition published on 8th of May, 2012 (Vol. 2, Issue 175) entitled ‘Sata Shielding Crooks.’” The letter threatens to initiate civil proceedings unless the Daily Nation and Mr. Amsterdam retracted the article, issued a written apology, and paid damages of 500 million kwacha (approx. US$97,000.00).
The president’s threat toward Mr. Amsterdam comes on the heels of a request for Urgent Appeals submitted to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers of the United Nations following threats and intimidation by Wynter Kabimba of the Patriotic Front party, who accused Mr. Amsterdam of a slew of unsubstantiated allegations for acting as legal counsel to Henry Banda, the son of the former President Rupiah Banda.
According to Mr. Amsterdam, the latest threats from President Sata represent the culmination of a series of attacks on the political opposition and independence of the judiciary. “This is the same administration that has attempted to force the de-registration of the largest opposition party, conducting a phony witch hunt in the name of anti-corruption to eliminate competition, and firing judges who rendered inconvenient verdicts against political allies. The staggering number of irregularities, violations of protocol and due process by this government is causing serious damage to the country. Is it too much to ask that this government be required to observe the law and uphold the constitution?”
Amsterdam & Peroff LLP along with law firm Brian Kahn Inc of Johannesburg, South Africa represent the Former President Rupiah Banda and his son Henry Banda. The legal team is in the process of presenting appeals before the relevant international bodies to expose the unlawful conduct undertaken by the current administration against the political opposition. Documentation and further information can be found at http://www.robertamsterdam.com/zambia.