The International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) has written to the chairperson of the tribunal set up to probe suspended Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Mutembo Nchito. The IAP has written Justice Annel Silungwe over the tribunal decisions to hold the proceedings in secrecy.
IAP president Gerhard Jarosch wrote on 19 March 2015;
I am writing this letter in my capacity as the President of the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), the only worldwide association of prosecutors, of which the Zambian Prosecution Service has been an active and significant organisational member for some years and on the Executive Committee of which Mr. Mutembo Nchito SC serves.
Recently, I was informed that Mr. Nchito, the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Republic of Zambia, was detained for a short period under a warrant of arrest that had been quashed by order of a higher court. He was also charged before a court until he was obliged to discontinue the proceedings against himself – a decision accepted by the court.
I cannot comment on the merits of the criminal allegations involved since I do not have all the necessary information, but assertions have been made that Mr. Nchito’s arrest and charge were politically motivated and without lawful foundation.
The IAP sent out letters to the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Zambia and the Attorney-General of the Republic of Zambia to request attention to the situation of Mr. Nchito. We wish to do everything in our power to ensure that Mr. Nchito’s constitutional rights as a private citizen and as a constitutional officeholder and independent prosecutor are protected. As we now understand from Mr. Nchito a Mutembo Nchito SC Tribunal has been set up chaired by you and it came to his attention that your Tribunal has decided to sit in camera, not being open to the public.
In a letter dated 16 March 2015 sent to you as Chairperson of this Tribunal, Mr. Nchito made clear why he is strongly protesting against the proceedings being held in secret. Until this decision was taken, everything concerning the action taken against Mr. Nchito was done and said in public and there was much press and public attention.
There is a public expectation that the community will be able to assess the events to be examined and there is international interest in the conduct and outcome of these proceedings. In his letter Mr. Nchito states: “I have been vilified and harangued in public, let the investigation into this matter be concluded in public. The public interest in this matter is so huge, and it is in the interest of the public and also the interest of every constitutional office, that the hearing and investigations of this matter be conducted in public.”
The IAP notes again that until now everything concerning this action has been done in public and it is in the community’s legitimate interest for it to be kept informed of serious proceedings involving the Director of Public Prosecutions, a constitutional officeholder, who acts in the community’s interests. The general principles governing such proceedings mandate the conducting of disciplinary proceedings against a senior constitutional officeholder in public. Because of the need for transparency and public accountability, Mr. Nchito himself is claiming a public hearing.
The IAP is strongly supporting Mr. Nchito in adherence to this principle and since there has not been publication of any reasons for the Tribunal’s decision we find it unacceptable that these proceedings will be conducted in secret. As President of the International Association of Prosecutors I ask you to reconsider your decision and to open the proceedings to the public.