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LIBERTY is one of the most precious rights of an individual and no one, least of all, a government must deny a person of his or her freedom.

It is for this reason that people’s rights are enshrined in the constitution, the supreme law of the land, that guarantees citizens of their rights.
These rights must be respected and not abused under the pretext of fighting corruption for example.

It is unfortunate that a trend is evolving in the country under which people are being denied their liberty by being locked up in police cells even when they have not been arrested or charged.

The constitution clearly outlines how a person must be treated under the Criminal Procedure Code. This is meant to stop the police and law enforcement agencies from arbitrary arresting citizens.

In recent days, the nation has seen at first hand how the rights of individuals are being flouted even when the law states clearly that one is perceived innocent until proved guilty in a court of law.

Just this week, the nation has witnessed former Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo was handcuffed and detained overnight without being charged.

He was charged the following day Mr Bowman Lusambo has been charged for concealing ownership of four properties and not the 49 properties as initially reported.
In another incident, the Patriotic Front Publicity and Media chairman Mr Raphael Nakacinda was locked up yesterday for defamation of the President and proposing violence.

The Police recorded a warn and caution statement from Mr Nakacinda for defamation of the President and proposing violence.
But they did not formally charge him much to the annoyance of his lawyers, Mr Makebi Zulu and Mr Jonas Zimba who could not obtain Police bond.

In all these cases, the authorities were clearly contradicting the directives that President Hakainde Hichilema has given in ensuring that the rule of law prevails.

President Hichilema has been very explicit that police must not arrest anyone without concluding investigations. And if they do so, the suspect must appear in court within 24 hours.
Where the offence is bondable, one must be freed on police bond.

But the nation is seeing a trend where the law enforcement agencies have freeway to do anything they want oblivious of the law.
As noted by Mr Zulu when Mr Nakacinda was detained, no one should be put in custody without being charged.

Mr Zulu said that from a legal perspective he was wrong and as far as he was concerned he was a free man

“No one should be put in custody without being charged and clearly we see a deviation from this and clearly he is still a free man because none of his freedom has been taken away from him by way of an arrest,” he said.

Both Mr Lusambo and Mr Nakacinda were locked up without being charged.

It is important that as a country and member of the international community, Zambia must ensure human rights are followed to the latter.
Human rights are universal and every person around the world deserves to be treated with dignity and equality.
That is a cardinal principle that must never be compromised.

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