[Paul Kasonkomona has been released on bail. Details to follow.]
Human rights organizations are demanding that Zambia release AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona, who has been detained by police since his arrest on April 7 for speaking in favor of gay rights. Zambian Watchdog reported:
The Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) have expressed their deep concern at the unlawful arrest and continued detention of Zambian HIV and human rights activist Paul Kasonkomona and called upon the police to release him from custody with immediate effect.
Kasonkomona was picked up by the police on Sunday at the gates of Muvi TV, a private television broadcaster, after he had appeared on a programme to debate the issue of same-sex marriages in Zambia. During the programme, Kasonkomona spoke out openly in favour of gay rights.
The police officers who arrested Kasonkomona were reportedly acting on the orders of the Acting President and Home Affairs Minister, Edgar Lungu, who is notorious for his strident public opposition to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.
Kasonkomano was charged with violating Section 178 of the Zambian penal code, which states that “every person who in any public place solicits for immoral purposes” can be fined and imprisoned for up to a month.
These are some of the reasons that human rights activists gave for demanding Kasonkomona’s release:
- “The unlawful arrest and detention of Paul Kasonkomona is a blatant attempt to silence anyone who promotes the human rights of sexual minorities in Zambia,” said Anneke Meerkotter, lawyer at SALC. “It is also an alarming attack on the right of all Zambians to exercise their right to the freedom of expression.”
- “It is unlawful for the police to detain Paul for more than 48 hours without taking him before a magistrate,” said Chivuli Riva Ukwimi, OSISA’s Marginalised Populations Coordinator. “This is clearly a politically-motivated violation of his most basic rights.”
- “Zambia should have repealed this repressive colonial-era law many years ago,” said Meerkotter. “Instead, the police are continuing to use it to arrest and detain people even though the charges are completely unrelated to their acts.”
The Zambian human rights group Friends of Rainka previously called for Kasonkomona’s release and urged “our partners and friends around the country [and elsewhere] to come out in full support of the LGBTI activists on the ground who are feeling the brunt of the current state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia fueled by continued hate and scapegoating of LGBTI people as a ruse to fool the public into discussing trivial matters as opposed to the ongoing constitution-making process.”
For more information about SALC and OSISA, read the full article in Zambian Watchdog: “Southern African Litigation Centre, OSISA demand release of Kasonkomona”