Robert Amsterdam Wins Legal Award for Pro Bono Africa Case

robert-amsterdam-zambiaFormer President Rupiah Banda’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam has been nominated for an award by the magazine The American Lawyer in recognition of a pro bono case he won involving a United Nations employee assigned to Zimbabwe.

A press release distributed by his office announced the honour, while also making clear reference to some of his detractors in Zambia who have often attacked him in the media in response to criticism of the ruling Patriotic Front party.

Amsterdam’s law firm was selected for the prize of 2013 Global Pro Bono Dispute of the Year after achieving a historic victory before the United Nations Dispute Tribunal in Nairobi, Kenya on behalf of Georges Tadonki.  According to a summary of the case published in The Atlantic magazine, Dr. Tadonki was wrongfully dismissed by his superiors for exposing a cover-up of a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe.  The ruling from the U.N. Tribunal was “a damning survey of misplaced priorities and institutional rot” that has occurred within a certain section of the U.N. bureaucracy.

“We only work for clients in whose cause we believe in. I believed in Dr. Tadonki’s cause, and we were victorious. I believe in former President Banda’s cause, and we intend to prove his innocence before these politically engineered slurs that passes for the prosecution’s case,” Amsterdam stated in the press release.

The statement notes that Mr. Amsterdam has been “repeatedly and disrespectfully” attacked by Zambian government officials, including Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, as well as editorials published in the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail, which have suggested an unsavoury reputation and “money-driven passion.”

“It’s quite unusual to see a serious newspaper actually dedicate a full page to personal insults against a lawyer, but then again, the PF’s agenda is to apply as much propaganda as possible to attempt to criminalize their opponents in the absence of evidence,” Amsterdam states in the press release. “I believe my firm’s record speaks for itself, and I hope that Mr. Kabimba and the other dishonest members of the PF can learn to communicate with the public based on facts rather than lies and insults.”

The statement notes that over a career of 33 years of international law practice, Mr. Amsterdam has represented an Amnesty International-recognized political prisoner in Russia, successfully freed a political prisoner from Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and works on behalf of a group of slain protesters in Thailand. Currently Mr. Amsterdam serves as international counsel to former President Rupiah Banda, who is facing two separate corruption trials that he says are politically motivated. The Canadian lawyer, who is based in London, was successful in clearing the former president’s son, Henry Banda, from an Interpol Red Notice after the PF government failed to produce a case.

The inaugural Global Legal Awards, which aims to “honor global citizenship in all its forms,” announced honorees in 30 different categories of international legal achievement from more than 300 submissions around the world, including other renowned international law firms such as Clifford Chance, Shearman & Sterling, and DLA Piper, among many others.

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