A British law firm says one of its lawyers was arrested and held for hours in Zambia after meeting residents in Chingola who filed complaints about alleged pollution from Konkola Copper Mines.
The Leigh Day firm said on Thursday that lawyer Oliver Holland was in Zambia to meet communities who say KCM is damaging farmland and water sources.
The firm said Mr Holland was held without charge for four hours and did not have access to a lawyer, food or water.
Mr Holland was meeting with Leigh Day’s clients in their communities to update them on the case when he was arrested for holding a public meeting.
He was arrested under the Public Order Act, stemming from colonial times, which states that holding a meeting of more than three people requires that a police permit must be obtained.
According to Leigh Day this was an ‘excessive response’ to the eventual charge of ‘conduct likely to cause a breach of peace’ which is a misdemeanour, not a criminal offence, which resulted in Mr Holland paying a ZMK50 ($5) fine.
In a statement, the law firm says according to Mr. Holland, the initial arresting police officers involved were driving a vehicle displaying the Konkola Copper Mines logo.
Police in Chingola confirmed that Mr. Holland and two local government officials were arrested and later released.
According to Mr Holland the initial arresting police officers involved were driving a vehicle displaying the Konkola Copper Mines logo.
Mr Holland said: “We will be writing immediately to KCM’s lawyers to obtain a full explanation as to their seeming involvement into my arrest.
“We will be seeking assurances both from the Defendants and from the Zambian government that we will not be prevented from meeting our clients in the future.
“The ability for clients to meet with their lawyers is essential in their pursuit of justice and is a vital element of any fair and open society.”
Mr Holland is a solicitor in the international and group claims department assisting Martyn Day primarily on group actions against British multinationals where environmental damage has occurred.
He is currently assisting Martyn Day on a claim on behalf of 1,800 Zambian farmers against Vedanta Resources and their Zambian subsidiary KCM for damage to land and their health allegedly as a result of the Defendant’s copper mining operations.