The Human Rights Commission (the Commission) welcomes the decision by the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, to assent to Penal Code (Amendment) Bill
No. 25 of 2022 that replaced the death penalty with life imprisonment and repealed the offence of defamation of the President.

The replacement of the death penalty with life imprisonment is a landmark development towards enhancing the fundamental right to life. The signing into law of the Bill is a hallmark
of decisive leadership that has now settled the abolition of the death penalty that has been in suspense for the past 25 years since executions were last carried out in 1997.

The abolition of the death penalty through the amendment of the Penal Code Act, Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia, is in line with the global trend of abolishing the cruel and inhumane
practice by amending subsidiary laws that prescribe offences that attract a penalty of death. There is no known country that has abolished the death penalty through a national referendum,
but through amendment of penal laws and judicial decisions that declared the death penalty as unconstitutional.

It is gratifying that by amending the Penal Code Act to remove the provision relating to mandatory death sentence for crimes of treason, murder and aggravated robbery, it means that
currently, Zambia does not have any legislation that imposes the sentence of death as a form of punishment for any crime.

The right to protection of the law under Article 18 (8) of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia, guarantees that “No person shall be convicted of a criminal offence
unless that offence is defined and the penalty is prescribed in a written law…”.

It is worth noting that Article 12 of the Constitution of Zambia guarantees the right to life and provides a derogation to the right to life where a death sentence exists under subsidiary

Thus, the replacement of the provisions of the Penal Code that provided for the punishment of death means that the death penalty has been abolished in Zambia.

The Commission also commends President Hichilema for assenting to the repeal of Section 69 of the Penal Code on criminal defamation of the President, which had the effect of undermining
the right to freedom of expression. The decision by the President to repeal the offence of defamation of the President is a progressive and courageous act of commitment to deepening
democracy and human rights, particularly that this has been done at a time when there are incessant cases of abuse of the freedom of expression against the President. The fact that the
President has repealed criminal defamation of the President means that he has taken national interest above self-interests and that is commendable.

The Commission is calling for enhanced efforts and increased investment towards prevention of heinous crimes and gross violations and abuses of human rights and freedoms.

The Commission urges the Government, as the primary duty bearer on promoting and protecting human rights, to scale up its efforts towards meeting its obligations. The
Commission also urges the people of Zambia, who are the rights holders to remain vigilant and effectively claim and exercise their rights and freedoms with maximum responsibility for the
common good.

(Original Signed)

Mweelwa Muleya

The Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, Mr. Mudford Mwandenga, has urged Government to take practical and tangible measures towards adopting and enacting an expanded Bill of Rights that meets international human rights standards.

Mr. Mwandenga was speaking during the commemoration of international Human Rights Day held at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka on 12th December 2022. Read full statement

Human Rights Commission Chairperson, Mr. Mudford Mwandenga calls for continued and effective implementation of policies, legal, institutional, judicial, administrative and other reforms aimed at ending end discrimination and enhancing the rights of women and girls.

Mr. Mwandenga was speaking during the commemoration of the sixteen days of activism against gender-based violence held at Mulungushi international conference centre on 25th November 2022. Read full statement

Following media and the Zambia Police Service information that some police officers were battling for their lives in St. Francis Hospital in Katete District after being brutally attacked by some villagers in Chieftainess Kawaza’s area in Katete District in Eastern Province on 19th November 2022, the Commission immediately dispatched its Investigations Officers to the area.

The Commission wishes to confirm that 17 Police Officers were brutally attacked by the villagers who reportedly took turns on repeatedly assaulting the officers using assorted objects such as stones and sticks. The Commission was informed by medical officers that some officers suffered broken limbs such as legs and arms while others had broken noses and teeth, deep cuts on the heads while others only had soft tissue injuries and multiple bruises. The combined team of security officers which included the Zambia National Service, and other community leaders and individuals who rushed to the crime scene to take the injured officers to the hospital found some of the victims lying unconscious while others were profusely bleeding and agonizing with excruciating pain as they lay on the ground.

A total of nine (9) officers were initially admitted to St. Francis Mission Hospital. Three (3) of the victims were critically injured and were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). However, as of 20th November 2022, only two officers were still admitted, one who suffered a broken nose was under observation while one who suffered a deep cut on the head was still in the ICU.

The Commission wishes to strongly condemn the criminal and barbaric conduct of the villagers on the Law Enforcement Officers. Further, the Commission calls for thorough investigations to ensure that the culprits are properly identified and subjected to the due process of the law.

It is unacceptable for anyone to take the law unto their own hands as the villagers did, no matter how annoyed or strongly one feels about any matter or situation. Police Officers have a daunting constitutional obligation of daily maintaining law and order and protecting human rights such as the right to life, property and public security or safety and they deserve everyone’s support and respect as they carry out their national duties, usually under extremely difficult circumstances.

Further, the Commission wishes to commend the police officers for their exceptional professionalism and restraint from using live ammunition on their assailants, even in the face of imminent danger on their lives. The Commission was informed that the villagers defied warning shots and continued advancing violently until the officers reportedly ran out of ammunition. As a result, they were helpless, exposed and vulnerable to pouncing by the large mob of angry villagers who were armed with assorted objects.

The Commission is cognizance of the high and disturbing emotions the attack on the police officers has generated and justifiably so. The Commission is also aware that the police high command and a contingency of officers have moved in Katete to deal with the unfortunate situation. However, the Commission would like to earnestly appeal to the police to continue exercising the same commendable level of professionalism exercised by the victims who refrained themselves from using excessive force, which could have probably aggravated the situation and resulted into mass killings of villagers and some officers alike.

As the police command pursuing the perpetrators, the Commission is also urging them to consider facilitating the compensation of the injured officers and continue rendering support to them beyond just medical care to mitigate the adverse impact of the injuries on their general wellbeing and that of their families.

Background Information

The background of the conflict is that the 17 police officers had gone to maintain law and order in Joel and Chinzu villages, in Chieftainess Kawaza’s area where irate villagers had destroyed properties and houses belonging to two individuals who were accused of bewitching someone. The villagers had also destroyed Headman Chizu’s house, accusing him of sympathizing with the suspected witches.

The Villagers were annoyed that the two accused persons were released by the police due to lack of evidence linking them to the “murder” of the deceased. The police had made efforts to explain to the villagers through the 19 headmen before releasing the suspects and had also advised the accused to settle elsewhere upon being released for their own safety. However, word went round the village that they had been released, hence the villagers destroying their properties and that of the head man.

The 17 police officers who had gone to maintain law and order in Joel and Chinzu villages, were ambushed by villagers who apparently misconstrued their presence and intervention as siding with the “murder” suspects who they felt were let “scot free” by the police.

As the police started retreating from Joel village, they found the road ahead was blocked with logs and metal items. The villagers who were hiding in the bush emerged and started throwing stones and all sorts of objects at the police as they tried to navigate the barricade.

The police further found that the villagers had barricaded the road leading to Katete town at different points preventing them from leaving the area using the route they came through.

A rear tyre of the police Toyota Land Cruiser Vehicle got punctured in the process as police officers tried to find their way out through the bush. In trying to escape from the mob, the police meandered in the bush, but came to a dead end when they reached a stream and the vehicle they were using failed to cross.

At that point, more people from surrounding villages had mobilized and attacked the officers, hitting them repeatedly with various dangerous objects while reportedly threatening to kill them.

Mweelwa Muleya

The Human Rights Commission (the Commission) has, in the recent few days, received correspondence from various stakeholders expressing fear about the safety of suspected or real members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community in Zambia.

The expression of fear emanates from public statements made against perceived or real LGBTQI individuals following the alleged increased cases of sodomy. The Commission is monitoring the situation and studying the public statements that have been made on the matter by various stakeholders, including Government. Further, complaints and fear of potential human rights violations and abuse against real or suspected LGBTQI individuals are being investigated within the established complaints handling mechanism of the Commission.

Regrettably, the Commission has noted the tendency by some stakeholders to deliberately confuse purely criminal acts with human rights issues when dealing with matters relating to the situation of LGBTQI in Zambia. A distinction must be made between supporting the human rights of the LGBTQI community, which rights accrue to them by virtue of them being human and supporting them to freely and publicly exercise their sexual orientation and gender identity, which is a criminal offence in Zambia.

The reported cases of sodomy are criminal offences that must be thoroughly investigated by the Zambia Police Service and must be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Penal Code, Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia. Everyone must effectively be protected from any form of sexual abuse and cases of sodomy against individuals, including children, must therefore be treated as a crime, akin to defilement and rape. Therefore, law enforcement against sodomy should not be confused with clamping down on the LGBTQI community in Zambia.

But be the foregoing as they maybe individuals that are suspected of having committed acts of sodomy must not be subjected to unlawful actions and/or violations of their human rights such as arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Instead, they must, just like any other suspect, be granted equal protection of the law such as being promptly informed of their offence, being charged and taken to court within a reasonable period of time and/or as prescribed by the law.

All suspects irrespective of the nature of the offence they are suspected to have committed must be presumed innocent until proved guilty before a court of competent jurisdiction and must also be allowed access to legal representation of their own choice, access to medical services where need arises and be allowed visits by members of their families and friends if detained while awaiting their cases being processed by the Police or pending trial.

The Commission also notes with concern the continued hate speech and threats of physical attacks against persons based on their perceived or real sexual orientation and gender identity. This is a criminal offence and/or a violation of the right to personal security among other rights. The State, particularly the Police, has an obligation to protect everyone from any form of violence, abuse, harassment or harm without any form of discrimination. To this end, the Commission is appealing to all stakeholders to respect the rule of law and human rights.

The Commission is cognizant of the fact that practicing homosexuality or lesbianism is illegal in Zambia and the Commission has noted the opposition against the practice based on various factors such as religious and cultural beliefs and values. However, those found on the wrong side of the law or in conflict with the law should be treated in a humane manner because they are human beings and are entitled to the protection of their human rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the international and regional human rights instruments that Zambia is a party to. By virtue of being party to various human rights instruments, Zambia is bound to protect the indivisible and inalienable rights of all citizens including those found on the wrong side of the law or who come in conflict with the law.

It is the Commission’s clarion call that the lives of members of the LGBTQI community should not be sacrificed at the altar for political, religious or cultural expedience because life is sacrosanct and must be protected. The State must, therefore, not spare any effort to stop the emerging vicious hate campaign against the LGBTQI community. The State is obligated to adopt effective measures of protection against the actions of private individuals who may violate or threaten to violate the right to life and security of person or members of the LGBTQI community in Zambia.

Issued by: 

Mudford Z. Mwandenga



The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) calls upon the Zambia Police Service to refrain from the practice of delaying to charge and take suspects to court or grant them bond in accordance with the law.

The prolonged detention of suspects without any charge or trial is a violation of the right to secure the protection of the law as enshrined under Article 18 of the Constitution, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia and must be redressed without any further delay.

Suspects should be informed of the nature of the offence they are charge with, formerly arrested and be taken to court within 24 hours as reasonably practicable as prescribed under section 33 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Chapter 88 of the Laws of Zambia.

Failure to charge and taken suspects to court within the legally prescribed period constitutes arbitrary detention and a violation of his right to liberty and protection of the law as enshrined under Articles 13 and 18 of the Constitution, Chapter 1 of the laws of Zambia.

The Commission wishes to put it on record that the continued detention of any suspect without charge or trial violates a wide range of human rights such as the right to liberty, the right to secure the protection of the law which includes the right to be presumed innocent, the right to be informed of the nature of the offence charged, the right to a trial, among others.

Continued detention of suspects without charge or trial is also unlawful and may open the State to lawsuits by the affected persons for damages for unlawful detention or imprisonment. Further the Commission wishes to state (as has been stated before) that it is not within the province of the Police Service to detain suspects for or ostensibly for the purpose of carrying out investigations. Investigations should be merely but a prelude to effecting an arrest prior to a suspect being taken to court to face charges leveled against the suspect.

It is the expectation of the Commission that the Law Enforcement Agents and Institutions will in discharging their duties demonstrate unwavering commitment to upholding respect for the Rule of Law, Constitutionalism and Human Rights without any form of discrimination.

Mudford Z. Mwandenga



Human Rights Commission Chairperson, Mr. Mudford Z. Mwandenga has expressed concern at the continued arrest and detention of suspects for several days or months days without trial.

The Chairperson was speaking during the Commission’s inaugural Statutory Meeting held after the induction of the newly appointed Commissioners who were ratified by the National Assembly on 24th June 2022 and, subsequently, sworn in by President Hakainde Hichilema at a ceremony held at State House on 27th June 2022. Read full statement

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The mission of the Human Rights Commission is to promote and protect human rights for all people in Zambia through investigations of human rights violations, rehabilitation of victims of human rights abuses, education of communities and advocacy for policy and legal changes influenced by evidence based research

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