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As Zambia is celebrating her independence from the colonial rule, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) notes with grave concern the escalating suppression of civil and political rights and freedoms of individuals through the abuse of the Public Order Act and calls for urgent appropriate governance agenda setting by the Executive.

The recent arresting of some Clergy men and representatives of the Centre for Policy and Trade Development (CPTD) who had assembled to discuss the 2019 budget in church on the Copperbelt; the continued police harassment and suppression of the political rights of Bahati Member of Parliament, Hon. Harry Kalaba and that of the Roan Member of Parliament, Hon. Chishimba Kambwili, are some of the alarming cases of abuse of the Public Order Act.

The understanding of the Commission is that there is neither a Restriction Order against free movement of anyone in this country nor a threatened or actual State of Emergency that would justify suppression of the rights to freedom of assembly and movement of some selected individuals.

Citizen Engagement and Political Mobilisation are permanent features of a democracy and it is inevitable that civil and political leaders will always attract public attention and following. It is therefore incredible that the Police should expect politicians to always notify them about their presence, movements and interactions with the public at organised public gatherings such as church and funeral services.

The ordering of Honourable Kalaba by the Police to leave Mwinilunga District in North-Western Province on account that he had no permit to be in the area is widely seen to be not only illegal, but unreasonable and unjustifiable in a democratic society such as Zambia. The Commission wishes to advise that the continued suppression of civil and political rights and freedoms is denting the human rights and governance record of the country and the Government, through the Executive, should take immediate remedial measures. Therefore, it must accordingly be frowned upon and publicly condemned by all, including by the Executive because silence may give an impression of tacit approval of the police action.
 
This is particularly so because the police is an agent of the Executive wing of Government and more often than not, they are generally perceived to be carrying out Executive orders. Further, suppression of divergent views is undermining the national and international resolve for an inclusive system of governance for sustainable development. Thus, the abusive actions of police officers on individual’s rights and freedoms have far-reaching ramifications on national development and the majority of citizens.

It is for this reason that the continued violation of human rights and freedoms of some individuals must be viewed in a broader context of the need to foster an inclusive and democratic system of governance, which calls for high level political guidance. In other words, the Executive must set a clear national agenda for good governance both in words and actions.

Zambia is pluralistic society and a multi-party democracy in which the hallmark of governance must be based on respect for human rights, constitutionalism and the rule of law without any form of discrimination. It is therefore regrettable that an impression of Zambia turning into a police state is unnecessarily being created.

The Commission is therefore calling upon the Executive to ensure that there is equality and non-discrimination in the manner the police administers the Public Order Act. Everyone is entitled to the equal protection and benefit of the law and the Public Order Act should not be selectively applied because that is a violation of human rights and an act of bad governance.

It is therefore necessary that the Executive takes remedial measures and demonstrate the Government’s continued commitment to meeting its tripartite obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and freedoms of all individuals in Zambia.

[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambia [amendment] Act Number 2 of 2016 to ensure that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted].
 
Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

Human Rights Commission (HRC) is urging individuals and institutions to take advantage of the on-going consultative meetings on the amendment of the Public Order Act (POA) and make submissions aimed at improving the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of assembly.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in conjunction with the Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) is currently undertaking consultative meetings in Provincial Centres to facilitate public submissions on the proposed amendment of the POA.

The Commission takes note that the amendment of the POA is one of the output indicators in the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) aimed at promoting an inclusive and democratic system of governance. It is also one of the 183 recommendations which the Government accepted to implement during Zambia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of her human rights record at the United Nations in Geneva in 2017.

It is therefore important that stakeholders turn up in large numbers during the on-going consultative meetings and make concrete recommendations on how the POA should contribute to improving the right to freedom of assembly and an inclusive democratic system of governance in Zambia.

Stakeholders must ensure that any provisions or regulations in the administration of the POA that make the required police notification for a public meeting have an effect of  obtaining a police  permit are removed to promote equality and non-discrimination in the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly and other related rights and freedoms.

The Commission has consistently observed with regret the selective and discriminatory manner the POA was being administered to the detriment of fostering the expression of divergent and dissenting opinions and ideas as expected in a pluralistic and multiparty democracy such as Zambia. It is therefore pleasing to note that the Government is beginning to take practical steps towards amending the provisions of the POA that are incompatible with its national and international human rights obligations.

The right to freedom of assembly is a fundamental right and freedom enshrined in Zambia’s Bill of Rights and in the International Bill of Human Rights. To this effect, the POA should be designed and implemented in a manner that promotes and protects, rather than undermine, the right to freedom of assembly, association and expression.

Notwithstanding efforts towards legal reforms of the POA, the Commission is calling for non-discriminatory and selective administrative measures aimed at promoting and protecting the right to freedom of assembly when considering the notification of convenors for a public meeting and/or assembly.

 [The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambia [amendment] Act Number 2 of 2016 to ensure that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted].

 
Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) condemns the harassment of Economic and Equity Party (EEP) President, Mr. Chilufya Tayali, by some suspected United Party for National Development (UPND) sympathisers at the Lusaka Magistrates Court Premises where he had gone for a Court Session on 17th October 2018.

However, the Commission hasten to salute the Zambia Police Service for their alertness and quick protection of Mr. Tayali from further punishment by guaranteeing him his right to personal security.

The harassment and roughing up of Mr. Tayali within the court  premises, which resulted in tearing up of his jacket, was deeply regrettable and must be condemned as an act of lawlessness that should not be allowed in a democratic country such as Zambia.

Mr. Tayali had been sued by the UPND President, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, for alleged criminal defamation and he had lawfully gone to answer to the charges as directed by the court. It was therefore regrettable that he was almost physically manhandled and his clothes torn before the Police rescued him.

After speaking to some of the eye witnesses, including some UPND sympathisers and Mr. Tayali himself as a victim, the Commission is of the view that the perpetrators of violence against Mr. Tayali exhibited some level of intolerance and lacked self-restraint as expected in a multi-party democracy.

The Commission is therefore calling upon all those who may be aggrieved by the alleged utterances and actions of Mr. Tayali to refrain from taking the law into their own hands but exercise patience and allow the due process of the law to take its own course.

Suing the EEP President was one of the civilised forms of redressing grievances in a democracy. To this effect, it is important to allow justice to take its course uninterrupted by any form of human rights violation such as physical, psychological or verbal abuse of either parties and/or their agents or witnesses.

Mr. Tayali, like any other individual, has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law through the courts of the law. Therefore, those aggrieved by either his utterances or action should not take any slightest opportunity to arbitrarily punish him because that would be a violation of his constitutional rights. The Commission, therefore, calls for absolute restraint from any form of extra-judicial action against Mr. Tayali during future court sessions because such action would be incompatible with respect for the rule of law, human rights and constitutionalism.
 
The Commission is against any form of breach of law and order such as violence because it has potential to undermine a conducive environment for protection of human rights and freedoms.

The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Zambian Constitution to ensure that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted.
 
Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) deeply regrets and condemns the death of a fourth year University of Zambia (UNZA) student in a police operation to quell the protest by students on the night of 4th October 2018 and calls for punishment of perpetrators and compensation of the family of the deceased.

Meanwhile the Commission calls for calm at UNZA to allow the authorities to get to the bottom of the unfortunate incident to avoid the situation degenerating into widespread breakdown of law and order that may cause a wide range of human rights violations.

The Commission wishes to also reiterate its condemnation of the lawless behaviour of some students who resort to blocking the roads and destroying property whenever they were aggrieved because breakdown of law and order is a recipe for violation of human rights.

However, regardless of how unlawful, unreasonable and unjustifiable the students’ conduct may have been, the police should not have gone into the campus premises particularly that it was at night and difficult to identify students who may have been protesting at the road side.

The Commission strongly believes that if the Zambia Police Service had respected the advice given to them last year by the Commission not to pursue rioting students into campus premises, and for the government to be pro-active in addressing students’ grievances, Vesper would not have been deprived of her right to life.

The death of Vespers Shimuzhila from suffocation after her room caught fire as a result of a teargas canister that was reportedly thrown into her room is a clear case of violation of her right to life as enshrined under Article 12 of the Constitution of Zambia and various other regional and international human rights instruments, to which Zambia is a State Party.

It is the Commission’s considered view that the death of the UNZA student does not fall within the ambit of the legally permissible derogation to the right to life when one is deprived of life during the suppression of a riot because the victim in question was not rioting but was lawfully and peacefully in her room, away from the scene of disturbances.

It is deeply regrettable that the Zambia Police Service ignored the advice given by the Commission on 18th December 2017 after investigating a similar riot at the Copperbelt University to refrain from invading campus premises and smoking students out of their rooms using teargas.

If the Police cared to heed to this advice, life could not have been lost in that manner but the police would still have succeeded in executing their constitutional mandate of protecting life and property as well as human rights by simply keeping vigil around campus premises after the students retreated into campus from the roadside instead of going for them up to their rooms.  It is common knowledge that most students who are found in their rooms during protests are those who may be too scared to even go out of their rooms and are usually not part of the protestors.  Those participating in protests do not usually take refuge in their rooms when being pursued by the police because they are aware that whistle blowers, otherwise infamously known as moles, may have tipped the police about their room numbers and they risked being fished out if they went into their rooms. Hence, they hide in other safer places. As a results, innocent students are regrettably usually victims of police raids on campus. It is for this reason that police invasion of campus premises and students’ rooms, particularly at night, is unreasonable, unjustifiable and an act of misplaced professional judgement and conduct that results into violation of human rights such as the death of Vesper.

The Commission had also advised the Government to be pro-active in resolving students’ grievances to prevent students’ unrest. Delayed payment of allowances to students, because of the pangs of hunger, has historically always resulted into students disturbances. It was therefore expected that by now authorities would have put into place a robust mechanism of communication and dialogue to prevent predictable students’ disturbances arising from delayed government obligation to facilitate the right to education. It would be unreasonable and inhuman to expect, let alone to call upon, hungry students to concentrate on learning.

The Commission wishes to put it on record that the death of the female student, who was only remaining with two months to graduate as a teacher, at a time when the international community, including Zambia, was celebrating teachers’ day, is deeply disheartening. The Commission, therefore, renders its heartfelt condolences to the extremely bereaved Shimuzhila family, her friends and the students fraternity as a whole.

To this effect, the Commission calls upon the Government to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable and the family of the victim is compensated in line with its primarily obligation of respecting and protecting human rights and ending impunity in human rights violations.
The Commission also calls for immediate restoration of the constitutional right to freedom of association in all the high learning institutions by respecting and protecting the continued existence and operation of independent students’ union to represent the collective legitimate interests and ideals of students in an organised and lawful manner.

During 2017, the Commission facilitated a number of dialogue meetings between the police command and University and College Students in an effort to prevent conflicts from degenerating into violence and clashes that resulted into breakdown of law and order and violation of human rights. It was agreed then that the police would maintain constant communication with the students’ union leaders so that law enforcement agents would also be key stakeholders in resolving grievances by the students in an amicable and non-violent manner.
Regrettably, the proposed mechanism seems not to be working and one of the causes could be the reported banning of the students’ unions. The Commission strongly advises that Students’ Unions must be restored immediately as a matter of respect for human rights, rule of law and constitutionalism.

The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Zambian Constitution to ensure that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted.
 
Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is appealing to the Government to consider suspending the eviction notices issued to thousands of families to vacate the Kalomo Hills Local Forest  in Kalomo District and the Ndondi Joint Forest Management Area in Pemba District in Southern Province by 30th September 2018 until an amicable solution is found to avoid creating a humanitarian crisis of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
 
The Commission has received complaints from the affected families that the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources has issued them with eviction notices to vacate the Kalomo Hills Local Forest No. P 13 and Ndondi Joint Forest Management Area No. F181 by 30th September 2018, with a stern warning that those who will fail to comply “shall face the full force of the law”.

The Commission has also received a similar complaint that thousands of families received similar eviction notices ordering them to vacate their homes and stop their socio-economic activities in Ndondi Joint Forest Management Area F 181 in Pemba District of Southern Province.  The initial deadline was for 30th June 2018 but it was reportedly verbally also extended to 30th September 2018. Ndondi Joint Forest Management Area   is reported to be covering over 5,000 hectares of land and thousands of households have been residing for many decades.

According to the investigations by the Commission, Kalomo Hills Local Forest, which is in Siachitema and Chikanta Chiefdoms in Kalomo District of Southern Province, covers about 162,200 hectares of land. One-third of Siachitema Chiefdom is in the said Forest Reserve.
The Forest Reserve has over 34,000 people, 20 schools, 178 teachers, 10,000 pupils, 12,000 farmers, six (6) Health Facilities serving about 57,000 people, including those not in the Forest Reserve, over 150 Boreholes constructed by the Government and four (4) Communication Towers, among other public and community facilities. The commissioning of some of the public infrastructure in the Forest Reserves were reportedly being presided over and attended by senior government officials.

A copy of an eviction notice obtained by the Commission that was issued by the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources through the District Forestry Officer, reads in part, “You are hereby ordered to cease all activities, demolish any illegal structures as you have contravened the provisions of the Forest Act. No. 4 of 2015 and vacate the Forest Reserve by 30th September 2018. Failure to comply with this notice, you shall face the full force of the law”.

During the investigations, the Commission found that the villagers were living in fear of being forcibly evicted by law enforcement officers and were unable to prepare for the 2018/19 farming season as they did not know their fate. Traditional and other Community Leaders interviewed by the Commission appealed for protection of their subjects from being displaced from their “ancestral land”, which they said they first occupied as early as in 1830 when the first Chief Siachitema was reportedly born within the said area. However, the Government Officers interviewed informed the Commission that Kalomo Hills Local Forest, was gazetted a Forest Reserve under Government Notice No. 102 of 1952 and that there were no settlers at the time the land in question was declared a Forest Reserve.

The Commission is deeply concerned that the intended mass displacement of communities will result in a man-made humanitarian crisis and cause untold human rights violations associated with IDPs. The Commission is therefore calling upon the Government to strictly follow International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, particularly the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa to avoid violating the rights of the affected communities.

As the late former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan once noted, “Internal displacement is the great tragedy of our times. The internally displaced people are among the most vulnerable of the human family”.

The Notice ordering the villagers to stop all socio-economic activities, demolish their structures and vacate their homes in the Forest Reserves by 30th September 2018 has potential to create breakdown of families and disrupt social cohesion, peace and stability, in addition to causing widespread human rights violations in the respective communities. To this effect, the Commission is urging the Government to immediately issue a public statement assuring the frightened communities to remain calm and ignore the 30th September 2018 deadline to vacate their homes until an amicable and human rights-based solution is reached.

As a long term measure aimed at preventing and/or mitigating the impact of human rights violations that may be caused by mass displacement of families from the two Forest Reserves, the Commission is advising the Government to strictly adhere to its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, which may include providing alternative land for resettling the affected families before enforcing the eviction notices.

It must be emphasised that the Commission does not support lawlessness such as illegal encroachment on any land or property. However, mass evictions and displacement of communities without remedial measures such as alternative resettlement plans and /or compensation constitutes a violation of human rights.  

The Commission is also taken aback by the fact that over the years, the government has either been facilitating by way of funding and allowing the construction of strategic public facilities such as schools, health,  water supply and communication facilities  within the Forest Reserves in question, thereby giving an impression that the areas were legal settlements. Therefore, in the interest of fairness, justice and respect for human rights, there is need for a negotiated and mutually agreed and beneficial resettlement plan or solution between the government and the affected local communities in this matter.

The Commission will continue engaging the relevant stakeholders with a view of finding an amicable solution that will strike a balance between any government decision based on compelling and overriding public interest on one hand and, on the other hand, the government’s obligation to protect and assist the IDPs.

[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambian (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 to promote and protect Human Rights in Zambia]
 
Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) welcomes the address by President Edgar Lungu to the Third Session of the 12th National Assembly in which, among other progressive measures, he called for an inclusive democratic system of governance and respect for human rights.

The Commission noted with a sense of encouragement the Presidential Policy Direction for a conducive governance environment centred on transparency and accountability, inclusive democratic system of governance, the rule of law, human rights and constitutionalism.

It was particularly encouraging to hear the President re-affirming the Government’s unwavering commitment to amending the Public Order Act, Chapter 113 of the laws of Zambia. The amendment of the Public Order Act is one of the strategic measures outlined in the Seven National Development Plan (7NDP) aimed at creating an inclusive democratic system of governance.

The Commission however notes with regret that the Government has on numerous occasions expressed the desire and commitment to amending the Public Order Act, but no progress seems to be made towards achieving that noble objective of enhancing the promotion and protection of the democratic and constitutional right to freedom of Assembly.

It is therefore the expectation of the Commission that various stakeholders will this time around carryout the Presidential Policy Direction to amend the Public Order Act. The Amendment of the Public Order Act and its fair administration is an integral part of an inclusive democratic system of governance, respect for human rights, rule of law and constitutionalism.

The Commission will continue engaging various stakeholders in a quest to improve the administration of the Public Order Act in order to enhance the promotion and protection of the fundamental right to freedom of assembly.

The Commission wishes to also welcome the reminder by the President to all stakeholders to work towards mainstreaming the rights of Persons with Disabilities. The mainstreaming of the rights of Persons with Disabilities is central to the theme of Leave No One Behind as espoused in the 7NDP and the Sustainable Development Goals. It is a critical part of an inclusive system of governance and it must be taken seriously if Zambia is to achieve Vision 2030 of becoming a prosperous middle-income nation.

As the President rightly observed, Zambia has made notable strides in the promotion and protection of the rights of Persons with Disabilities to the extent of ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, domesticating the Convention through the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act No. 6 of 2012 and developing the National Disability Policy of 2015. There is however need for concerted efforts by various stakeholders towards ensuring that the legal and policy measures adequately translate into improving the well-being of Persons with Disabilities.

The Commission also noted that the Presidential Address stressed the need for promoting Economic, Social and Cultural Rights such as access to safe clean water, food, decent housing, electricity, quality education, health services and decent jobs in line with Vision 2030. As the theme of the Presidential Address stated, there is need for working together to achieve Vision 2030, and the Commission remains committed to playing its constitutional mandate in this regard.

[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambian (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 to promote and protect Human Rights in Zambia]

Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is calling for physical representation of Persons with Disabilities in various national governance structures in order to give them a sense of belonging and to also promote an inclusive system of governance for sustainable development.

During the implementation of a Project on Empowering Vulnerable Groups to claim their rights since 2016, the Commission has received complaints from Persons with Disabilities countrywide that they felt neglected and marginalised in matters of governance and were calling for an inclusive system of governance that represented their unique needs and interests.

One of the recommendations towards achieving inclusion of Persons With Disabilities in governance was that anyone exercising their powers under Article 69 of the Constitution of Zambia [Amendment] Act No. 2 of 2016, which empowers a President to nominate eight (8) Members of Parliament to enhance representation of special interests, skills or gender should ensure that at least one Person with Disability was nominated to Parliament and subsequently appointed as Cabinet Minister. It was further submitted that there was need to adhere to Article 259 of the Constitution of Zambia [Amendment] Act No. 2 of 2016, which obliges anyone empowered to make nominations and appointments to a public office to ensure that Persons with Disabilities were equitably represented provided they qualified to be appointed as such.

Persons with Disabilities have submitted to the Commission that as a result of the absence of Persons with Disabilities in various governance structures such as Councils, National Assembly and Cabinet, they felt that their challenges were not being adequately reflected in national planning and budgeting processes. They, therefore, had no sense of belonging to the governance system because they did not think and believe that it was inclusive and democratic.

The Commission strongly supports the view that Persons with Disabilities constituted a critical population of Zambia and must, just like any other groupings such as women and youths, not be left behind in the national socio-economic and political development processes. There is need for the government to take extra-ordinary measures to accommodate and meet the unique situations of Persons with Disabilities who constitute one of the most vulnerable groups. The country has an obligation to respect the view of Persons with Disabilities that “Nothing about us without us”, because they know what is best for them in relation to alleviating their vulnerability and poverty

The Commission is encouraged that the Seven National Development Plan (7NDP) being implemented from 2017 to 2021 is anchored on the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a rallying theme of “Leave No One Behind” aimed at promoting inclusive and sustainable development. To this end, the Commission is calling for deliberate efforts aimed at ensuring that Persons with Disabilities are physically represented in Districts, Provincial and National Development Co-ordinating Committees as well as in the various Technical Working Groups and Cluster Advisory Groups aimed at facilitating effective implementation of the 7NDP.

The Commission is also calling for effective and continuous enforcement of the Persons with Disabilities Act No. 6 of 2012 and full implementation of the 2015 National Policy on Disability in line with the national aspirations and meeting the national obligations under the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Zambia ratified in 2010.

Further, the country must continue refining and strengthening the various social protection and empowerment programmes to ensure that Persons with Disabilities were adequately benefiting and empowered to live independently as equal members of society.

[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambian (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 to promote and protect Human Rights in Zambia]
Mweelwa Muleya (+260 977 871207)
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

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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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