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Zambia: Challenging denial of legal capacity for persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities

SALC is supporting a petition by a person with psychosocial disabilities and the Disability Rights Watch (DRW) to repeal Section 4 of the Mental Health Act of 2019 in Katontoka  and Another v the Attorney General. The Petitioners argue that the provision unconstitutionally infringes on the rights to dignity, liberty, freedom of expression and conscience and to freedom from discrimination of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities as it denies persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities the right to enjoy legal capacity on the same basis as others. This, it is argued, is also contrary to Zambia’s international obligations under the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The High Court of Zambia gave judgement on 18 December 2022, and stated that Section 4 of the Mental Health Act was misunderstood by the petitioners, and that the Act meets internationally accepted standards in providing for the rights and freedoms of mental health patients and persons with mental illness. The Court also stated that issues around the quality of service delivery provided by public mental health services were valid, and although they did not fall within the scope of the case, it recommended that the National Mental Health Council to consider issues around the quality of service.

The Petitioners filed an Appeal with the Supreme Court of Zambia on 23 January 2023, with the hearing taking place on 6 June 2023. The Supreme Court is yet to announce the date of the judgement.

The petitioners are represented by Katindo Mwale of K. Mwale and Company.

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