The Human Rights Commission initiated an inquiry into allegations of the arrest and detention of Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) President, Mr. Sean Tembo, which recently were circulated in the mainstream media and social media platforms.

Whilst conducting its own investigations, the Commission visited Mr. Tembo on 5th September 2023 at Balmoral Police Post where he was being held, and engaged the Police both at the Police Post and Police Headquarters to secure his release.

During interactions with Mr. Tembo, the Commission was informed that the Police had issued a call-out dated 2nd August, 2023 for Mr. Sean Tembo to report himself to Ibex Police Station on Thursday 31st August, 2023 at 14:00 hours. Mr. Tembo, then, engaged his lawyers to accompany him to Ibex Police Station.

On the day that Mr. Tembo was scheduled to report himself to Ibex Police Station at 14:00 hours, he was picked up by Police in the morning and instead taken to Balmoral Police Post. On arrival at the Police Post, Mr. Tembo was informed of his arrest for hate speech contrary to section 65 of the Cyber-Security and Cyber-Crimes Act No. 2 of 2021, but alleged that the Police denied him contact with anyone whom he could have informed of his arrest. His family only learnt about his arrest and detention the following day. Whilst in detention at Balmoral Police Post, Mr. Tembo requested through his lawyers to be released on Police bond having arranged for two sureties, but the Police could not afford him bond on account that that they were verifying the sureties who were provided.

The Commission established that Mr. Sean Tembo was charged with two counts of hate speech and remained in detention at Balmoral Police Post for the same offence, which is bondable, from 31st August, 2023 to 5th September, 2023 without being informed of when he was going to appear in court. While Mr. Tembo was able to provide sureties upon his arrest and meet the bond requirement by the Police, his request for Police bond could still not be granted.

The Commission, therefore, engaged the Police to consider granting Police bond to Mr. Sean Tembo as provided for under sections 123 and 33 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) Act Chapter 88 of the Laws of Zambia.

Section 123 of the CPC states as follows:
“(1) When any person is arrested or detained, or appears before or is brought before a subordinate court, the High Court or Supreme Court he may, at any time while he is in custody, or at any stage of the proceedings before such court, be admitted to bail upon providing a surety or sureties sufficient, in the opinion of the Police officer concerned or court, to secure his appearance, or be released upon his own recognizance if such officer or court thinks fit:

Provided that any person charged with – (i) murder, treason or any other offence carrying a possible or mandatory capital penalty;

(ii) misprison of treason or treason-felony; or (iii) aggravated robbery; shall not be granted bail by either a subordinate court, the High Court or Supreme Court or be released by any Police Officer.”

Section 33 of the CPC states as follows:

“(1) When any person has been taken into custody without a warrant for an offence other than an offence punishable with death, the officer in charge of the Police station to which such person shall be brought may, in any case, and shall, if it does not appear practicable to bring such person before an appropriate competent court within twenty-four hours after he was so taken into custody, inquire into the case, and, unless the offence appears to the officer to be of a serious nature, release the person, on his executing a bond, with or without sureties, for a reasonable amount, to appear before a competent court at a time and place to be named in the bond: but, where any person is retained in custody, he shall be brought before a competent court as soon as practicable.

Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, an officer in charge of a Police station may release a person arrested on suspicion on a charge of committing any offence, when, after due Police inquiry, insufficient evidence is, in his opinion, disclosed on which to proceed with the charge.”

The Commission recommended that the Police should allow Mr. Tembo to access medical treatment having complaint of falling ill whilst in detention at Balmoral Police Post.

The Police were further implored to comply with the law governing the administration of bail and bond in order to uphold rights of all suspects regardless of their status as enshrined under the Bill the Rights in part III of the Constitution of Zambia.

With the intervention of the Commission, Mr. Sean Tembo was released from detention in the afternoon on 5th September, 2023.

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