The Human Rights Commission is deeply disturbed by recent revelations arising from the Auditor General’s report and further scrutiny by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee that defective condoms as well as gloves were distributed to the general public and have been in circulation since September, 2020. This revelation is a serious indictment on the part of the State and greatly undermines its obligation to ensure that every citizen enjoys the highest attainable standard of health.

The right to health is a fundamental human right and an important part of the right to life which has been recognized or articulated in many international human rights treaties which Zambia has ratified including the International Covenant on Economic, Social Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Zambia being a signatory to ICESCR which she ratified on 10th April, 1984 has the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil economic, social and cultural rights including the right to health. The ICESCR which is widely considered as the core International Human Rights Instrument on protection of the right to health, recognizes “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” under Article 12.

According to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in their General Comment No. 14 of 2000, “health is a fundamental human right indispensable for the exercise of other human rights.” Therefore, the right to health reinforces the interdependency, interconnectedness and interrelatedness of human rights whether civil and political rights or economic, social and cultural rights. This means that violating the right to health also impairs the enjoyment of other human rights dependent on it, such as the rights to life, to an adequate standard of living, to education or to work.

The implications of violating the right to health are far-reaching for individuals and groups particularly in vulnerable situations, such as women, adolescents, persons with disabilities and persons living with HIV/AIDS who often face significant barriers to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of  health due to discrimination, among other factors.

It is worth to note that the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in their General Comment No. 14 of 2000 emphasized under paragraph 12 that the right to health encompasses the following four pillars: (i) availability; (ii) accessibility; (iii) acceptability and (iv) quality.

Therefore, the full realization of the right to health imposes three core obligations on the State which are:

i. The obligation to respect- this requires States to refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the right to health. In this regard it is the considered view of the Commission that the Government failed in its obligation to respect the right to health by allowing the procurement and distribution of substandard condoms and gloves to the public.

ii. The obligation to protect- this requires States to ensure that private actors conform with human rights standards when providing health care or related services. With regard to the current case of Honeybee Pharmacy, there was an omission on the part of the Government in enforcing laws and regulations
that protect citizens from being supplied with substandard health commodities which violate their enjoyment of the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

iii. The obligation to fulfill – this requires States to adopt appropriate legislative, administrative, budgetary, and other measure to fully realize the right health. It was expected that the State, through its Agencies, including the Ministry Health, Medical Stores Limited and Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority, should have taken measures to effectively regulate the procurement and distribution of quality health commodities to the public. The Commission notes that the potential impact of distributing defective condoms and gloves have lifelong impact which may include the following:

1. Violation of the Right to Life
Owing to the interdependency and interrelatedness of human rights, the distribution of defective condoms and medical kits directly impacts on the protection of the right to life.

2. Violation of the Right to Health
The distribution of defective condoms and gloves has great potential to negatively impact on the enjoyment of the right to health particularly efforts aimed at fighting the AIDS pandemic. There is a huge risk that some people could have contracted HIV/AIDS on account of using such defective medical supplies. It is estimated that the prevalence of HIV among adult’s ages 15 to 59 years in Zambia is estimated at 12.3 %, 14.9 percent among females and 9.5 % among males. This accounts for  approximately 980,000 people living with HIV 1 who may have been exposed to health risks arising from the supply and distribution of the defective medical kits and unsafe medicines. This may reverse the gains made in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and, in turn, impair the enjoyment of the right to health.

3. Efforts to fight COVID – 19 Pandemic undermined
The health workers and other front-line staff in the prevention and control of the spread COVID – 19 pandemic make use of protective gloves among other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves and others from contracting COVID – 19. It is worrying that during the time of the deadly COVID – 19 pandemic which is increasing posing a serious public health threat the distribution of defective gloves was allowed potentially undermining the efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19

4. Compromised safety of health workers and frontline staff
Health professionals and other frontline staff play a critical role in the realization of the right to health. It is expected that health commodities made available to health workers for their use, such as gloves, should be of high quality and standard in order to guarantee their safety and that of the members of the public. It is of great concern that the Government allowed the distribution and use of substandard gloves in health facilities which undermined the occupational safety of health workers and other frontline staff and, in turn, endangering their lives as well safety of members of the public who could have accessed health service.

5. Impact on sexual reproductive health and rights
The distribution of defective condoms directly impacts on the enjoyment of sexual reproductive health rights considering that the availability and accessibility of quality-assured condoms is are a key component in the fulfilment of sexual
reproductive health and rights in the country. Therefore, the distribution of defective condoms to the public compromised not only the safety of people at risk of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), but also the protection for individuals against unintended pregnancies. It is the responsibility of Government to ensure that quality-assured condoms are available to those who need them and when they need them for their reproductive health needs.

It is important to note that the award of the USD 17 million contract to Honeybee Pharmacy who  supplied substandard health commodities also raises issues of lack of transparency and accountability in the procurement of life-saving drugs and medical supplies.

The Commission calls on the Government to ensure that all those who played a role in facilitating the procurement, supply and distribution of unsafe drugs and medical supplies to the public should be held to account.

The Government should also put in place a strict accountability mechanism and curb corruption in the procurement of medical supplies. This is because corruption is leads to human rights violation.  It severely deprives the State of capacity to meet its obligations to respect, protect and fulfil all the human rights of its citizenry.

The Commission is aware that the Anti-Corruption Commission is already carrying out investigations into the matter which have reached an advanced stage. The Commission wishes to call upon the public to allow for lawfully mandated institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Commission to carry out their mandate effectively.

Further, it is unfortunate that unsafe drugs and medical kits were allowed to be distributed to the public despite failing the quality test and the authorities failed to act proactively to remove them from circulation in order to protect the citizens’ rights to health and life. Although psychological and other harm have already been occasioned, it is important that the drugs and defective medical kits are immediately withdrawn from market and should be destroyed forthwith.

The Commission is calling upon the Government to ensure that there is effective tracing of, and support to the victims in order to avoid putting their health and that of other people at any further risk. Over  and above, there should be adequate reparations for all victims.
Issued by:

Mudford Z Mwandenga

Following numerous and continued media inquiries, the Human Rights Commission (HRC/ Commission) wishes to confirm receiving a complaint letter from United Party for National Development (UPND) President Mr. Hakainde Hichilema on the alleged police shooting to death of two individuals in the names of Mr. Nsama Nsama and Mr. Joseph Kaunda on 23rd December 2020.

The Commission appreciates and welcomes the detailed letter of complaint and the pledge by the UPND to provide evidence relating to the alleged extra-judicial killings.

As the public may be aware through the press statement issued a few hours after the killings, the Commission was among the first investigative and oversight wings of Government to visit the scene of crime as part of its preliminary investigations.

Therefore, the Commission is on its own volition and in accordance with its constitutional and legislative mandate, already on the ground investigating the alleged extra-judicial killings.

The Commission is as concerned and anxious as other stakeholders such as Mr. Hichilema has demonstrated in his letter of complaint to the Commission to ensure that investigations are undertaken and concluded as soon as possible and ensure that justice is done.

However, the Commission is appealing for the indulgence and patience of the members of the public and stakeholders to allow for impartial and credible investigations into the matter.

Investigations into alleged extra-judicial killings by their nature are complex and as such, are dependent on a number of specialised agencies and experts to ensure that the findings are beyond any reasonable doubt because of the gravity of the prescribed crime and punishment.

Stakeholders and members of the public must be rest assured that as soon as investigations are concluded, the Commission will release the investigations findings as it has always done in the past.

It is the desire and obligation of the Commission to ensure that impunity in the violation of human rights is stopped by identifying and punishing the perpetrators in accordance with the law.

Issued by:

Mweelwa Muleya

The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) calls upon the Government to immediately establish an inquest to establish the identity of individuals responsible for shooting to death of a State Prosecutor, identified as Mr. Nsama Nsama, and a suspected UPND sympathiser identified as Joseph Kaunda, in Lusaka on 23rd December 2020.

Preliminary investigations by the Commission have established that Mr. Nsama, a State Prosecutor working for the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) and Joseph Kaunda, a Kafue based UPND sympathiser were shot dead, about 10 metres from each other near the NPA offices.

Mr. Nsama had just gone across his office to get a snack from a restaurant which is about 20 metres away from NPA head offices while Mr. Kaunda was walking on the road between the said restaurant and the NPA Offices when they were gunned down.

This unfortunate incident happened when the police officers were dispersing people who had gone to offer solidarity to the United Party for National Development (UPND) President, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, who was summoned to Police Force Headquarters.

The Commission witnessed the police firing tear smoke canisters at a peaceful crowd at the High Court Grounds and some officers physically chasing individuals around Cabinet Office area. Some workers in offices near Cabinet Office, including officers of the Human Rights Commission, were choked by the tear smoke in their offices. Gunshot sounds were heard blasting as the police officers dispersed the crowds and some security offices found at the scene intimated to the Commission that the sound was that of live bullets.

The Commission is shocked at the indiscriminate use of live ammunition by the police in an area surrounded by public offices such as Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Justice, the British High Commission, and others including private places such as the Restaurant where the majority of workers around go to eat from.

The unnecessary display of warfare tactics and use of excessive force by the police in the recent past has been unprecedented. The killing of Mr. Nsama is a classic example of the unreasonableness, unjustifiable, unnecessary, reckless and arbitrary use of excessive force by the Zambia Police Service. As a result, lives continue being lost through extra-judicial killings, which is unlawful killing of an individual by the state.

Many have been widowed and orphaned while relatives, friends and colleagues have lost their beloved ones at the hands of state agents, who have continued to go scot free, thereby creating a vicious cycle of impunity. The socio-economic deprivation, the emotional pain and the political tension caused by such gross violation of the right to life are unbearable and the Government has an inescapable obligation to stop that.

The Commission calls upon the Government to create a conducive governance environment anchored on respect for the rule of law, constitutionalism and human rights while maintaining law and order in order to protect, and not to eliminate, lives.

The Commission will within its mandate and powers continue investigating the reported extra-judicial killings. However, the Government has a primary obligation to protect human rights of individuals within its jurisdiction, and in this case the right to life has been violated by suspected state agents.

It is for this reason that the Commission is calling upon the Government to establish an inquest in line with the provisions of sections 4 and 28 (1) (c) of the Inquests Act, Chapter 36 of the Laws of Zambia, in order to establish the perpetrators and institute appropriate criminal charges.

Further, the Police Command has an obligation to avail suspected police officers so that they are subjected to the due process of the law.

Issued by:

Mweelwa Muleya (Mr.)

The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) is encouraged by the overwhelming turn out of eligible voters to register during the on-going voter registration exercise.

The show of determination to exercise their constitutional and democratic right to vote during the 2021 elections by the majority of Zambians is encouraging and it is the responsibility of the Government to fulfill their right. From the time the Voter Registration Exercise started, the Commission has observed continued queues of eligible citizens in their quest to register at various registration centres. Further, the Commission has observed that unlike in the previous voter registration exercises which were characterised by apathy, current exercise is characterised by large numbers of people voluntarily turning up to register.

The Electoral Commission of Zambia (EZC) has been doing everything possible within its capacity but it is common knowledge that it has been struggling to adequately meet the popular public demand to register the minimum estimated eligible voters of nine (9) million within the initially set time frame of 30 days.

The Human Rights Commission is confident that it is not too late for the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to take all necessary measures to mitigate disenfranchising eligible voters during the on-going registration exercise.

It is against this background that the Commission calls upon the Government to adequately support ECZ so that willing eligible voters are not disenfranchised because of lack of the capacity of the Electoral Body to register them.

Voter registration is an integral part of a free, fair and credible election in which the legitimacy and authority of Government should be based on universal and equal suffrage as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments.

Issued by:

Mweelwa Muleya

The Human Rights Commission commends His Excellency, Dr. Edgar Lungu, the President of the Republic of Zambia for pardoning a total of 966 inmates in exercise of his constitutional prerogative of mercy powers during the celebration of Zambia’s 56th Independence Anniversary on 24th October 2020.

The pardoning of 886 men and 80 women from various Correctional Facilities across the country in line with Presidential Prerogative of Mercy Powers under Article 97 of the Constitution of Zambia [Amendment] Act No. 2 of 2016 is a commendable gesture of compassionate and respect for human rights and freedoms of vulnerable individuals.

It is a notable human rights record that among the pardoned were some inmates on death row, the aged, the chronically ill and others whose sentences were commuted from death to life sentences and from life sentences to terminable sentences.

The Commission calls upon the pardoned ex-inmates not to betray the confidence and trust shown in them by refraining from re-offending and instead lead an exemplary life of being law abiding citizens and of service to society at large.

Further, the Commission is appealing to the family and community members to provide a conducive environment for successful re-integration of the Correctional Service Graduates by, among other measures, avoiding stigmatising and discriminating them but accepting them as reformed individuals.

The Commission wishes to take this opportunity to commend the Zambia Correctional Service, various Faith-Based Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, the Private Sector and individuals for their continued guidance and counselling services, material, financial and spiritual support to inmates across the country in order to uphold their inherent rights and
dignity as human beings.

Finally, the Commission is calling for continued support of the human rights-based reforms being implemented by the Government following the Constitution of Zambia [Amendment] Act No. 2 of 2016 which transformed the then Prison Service to the current Zambia Correctional Service.

Issued by:

Mweelwa Muleya

The Human Rights Commission calls for consolidation of democratic and human rights gains and a stop to human rights violations as Zambia celebrates 56 years of her independence.

The Commission acknowledges that Zambia has made some notable strides, particularly in the last 29 years, such as the reintroduction of multi-party democracy and a pluralistic society, the liberalisation of the market economy and the media industry which have all contributed, and continue to contribute to the advancement of socio-economic and political freedom.

It must be noted that the establishment of independent and functioning institutions of good governance is one of the landmark milestones in the consolidation of democracy and respect for human rights.

Therefore, the Commission calls upon everyone to vigilantly defend the hard earned human rights and freedoms so that the majority of citizens can have a sense of belonging to the lifeline of Zambia's National Anthem, "Victors in the struggle for the rights, we have won freedom's fight".

The Commission is encouraged that the majority of Zambians have remained resilient in defending their rights and freedoms which were gained at great cost in order to achieve independence and so that the majority of citizens can be proud and free.

Notwithstanding the achievements, the Commission has regrettably observed some claw backs from the democratic gains made so far. The closure and invasion of some independent media institutions and the escalating abuse of the Public Order Act are some of the notable regrettable undemocratic practices reminiscent of the colonial rule.

The Commission is calling for an end to discriminatory application of laws and violation of human rights and freedoms in order to realise the aspirations expressed in this year’s theme of independence celebration, which is "Our Land, Our Nation: Building our future proud and free".

The continued suppression of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression, particularly as the country counts down to 12th August 2021 Presidential and General Elections is creating political and public tension as those who are being suppressed struggle to find a democratic and free space to exercise their rights and freedoms.

It is extremely unfortunate, and it cannot be a source of national pride, that after 56 years of gaining independence the abuse of a 65 year old repressive colonial Public Order Act, which was originally designed to frustrate the independence struggle, seems to be given priority in national planning and budgeting.

Let this independence celebration be an opportunity for everyone to recommit themselves to building a united and peaceful Zambia anchored on respect for, and protection of human rights and freedoms for all.

Issued by:

Mweelwa Muleya

The Human Rights Commission wishes to put it on record that the Zambia Police Service treated the National Democratic Congress (NDC) President, Dr. Chishimba Kambwili’s wife in a cruel, inhuman and degrading manner when they were apprehending her at the Lusaka Magistrate Court premises in Lusaka on 20th October 2020.

Acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals or suspects are absolutely prohibited under Article 15 of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia and under International Human Rights Law.

Therefore, the State violated Mrs. Kambwili’s right to protection from inhuman or any form of illtreatment regardless of the alleged offence she may have committed. Further, the Commission considers the Police action against Mrs. Kambwili to have been excessive and disproportionate to her alleged action. Police action was not only unlawful and a violation of human rights but unnecessary, unreasonable and unjustifiable in a democratic state such as Zambia in which human rights are supposed to be respected and protected.

There are no circumstances under which acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of suspects are justifiable. Such acts are universally absolutely prohibited and Zambia should not be seen to be among Pariah States where respect for human rights is concerned. The Commission wishes to make it abundantly clear that it is not in any way against the maintenance of law and order as that is a constitutional mandate of the Zambia Police Service, which is also central to the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms. The Commission’s point of departure is when the police engages in acts of human rights violations. The Police can still be firm and effective in executing their mandate without being brutal against suspects, particularly unarmed, defenseless and vulnerable individuals such as women and children.

It is regrettable that acts of police brutality against individuals continue unabated and are somewhat increasingly becoming the new normal of police operations during crowd management. Such impunity has resulted in numerous cases of gross violation of human rights, including the right to life through extra-judicial killings of citizens at the hands of police officers.

The Commission calls upon the Government, which has the trio primary obligation of respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights, to demonstrate leadership towards ending acts of police brutality which are giving a wrong impression that Zambia is steadily becoming a police state. The Commission wishes to take this opportunity to remind both the State and Non-State Actors that under no circumstances are acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment permissible under both national and international human rights laws. Therefore, such acts reflect the extent to which the rule of law, constitutionalism and human rights are being violated.

Zambia is a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Government, therefore has an obligation to prevent such acts and/or punish perpetrators of such acts to end impunity, and also take remedial measures in protection of victims.

Issued by:

Mweelwa Muleya

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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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