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The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) calls upon the Zambia Police Service to strictly adhere to their own Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) during the enforcement of Public Health Regulations and the Presidential Guidelines on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution by Cabinet on Monday 10th August 2020 to deploy police officers to enforce public health regulations and guidelines on COVID-19 is a welcome move because it is in line with Zambia’s multi-sectorial response to the coronavirus called Zambia COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Programme.

However, officers have an obligation to strictly adhere to the recently developed SOPs for the Zambia Police Service which stipulates the guidelines on how they should execute their duties as they contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the Zambia COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Programme.

All law enforcement officers are in particular required to respect the rights and dignity of all persons. This means that officers should never resort to acts of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals not adhering to the regulations and guidelines. Officers must also respect the fundamental human rights principle of equality and non-discrimination during the enforcement of the public health regulations and guidelines.

On the other hand, members of the public must know and respect the fact that during this period of public health global pandemic, law enforcement officers have legitimate powers to, among other measures, enforce restrictions on movements, public gatherings prohibition or restriction on trade or vending and to stop any other illegal activities that may undermine the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commission wishes to reiterate the fact that COVID-19 pandemic is real and is ravaging lives. Therefore, there is need for reinforced response against its spread by combining public awareness and enforcement mechanisms in order to save lives.

To this end, the Commission is calling upon the Government to decentralize COVID-19 pandemic fund to District councils, District Health Offices and Police Stations to scale up public awareness on, and adherences to public health regulations and guidelines.

The Commission commends the Zambia Police Service for being pro-active by developing SOPs for its officers with financial and technical support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and also technical support from the Human Rights Commission.

However, the Commission is concerned that the capacity building of officers and the distribution of the SOPs to officers countrywide may be overtaken by the deployment of officers in the field and this may result in violation of human rights due to lack of standardised procedures and practices among the officers.

The Commission is therefore calling upon the Zambia Police Service Command to accelerate capacity building of officers and dissemination of the SOPs in order to achieve the noble objective of standardising procedures and practices among all officers during the enforcement of regulations and guidelines on COVID 19 pandemic.

Issued by:


Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) is concerned at the increasing cases of Coronavirus and calls for effective national leadership and revival of the campaign to combat the global pandemic.

The Commission has established that there is widespread denial of the existence of the Coronavirus in Zambia and calls for change of attitude and behaviour in order to save lives and protect health.
The random survey by the Commission in selected urban and peri-urban areas has revealed that most people do not believe that there is coronavirus in Zambia.

It is with great concern that as a result of that kind of denial, public health regulations and guidelines of social distancing, masking up, washing hands with soap, and avoiding handshakes or any form of body contact were in most cases not being observed.

The Commission also found out that while some people believe that there is COVID 19 in Zambia, they do not believe that it can cause death. As a result, they are also not strictly adhering to the health regulations and guidelines on Coronavirus.

Some claim that the wrong perception that the COVID 19 does not cause death was allegedly being created by the over-emphasis by the health personnel on the underlying health conditions of individuals who died from Coronavirus -related illness. This created an impression that no one can die from Coronavirus unless they have an underlying health condition.

It is the well-considered view of the Commission that there is need for a National Communication Strategy on the Coronavirus to provide a comprehensive guidance to various stakeholders in order to avoid any misinformation and ambiguity in the fight against the global health pandemic.

The legitimate need to prevent public panic should not create uncertainty on the existence and deadly impact of Coronavirus.

Further, the worrying increasing reported number of Brought In Dead (BID) bodies of individuals believed to have died from coronavirus seem to confirm the challenge of adequate testing for COVID 19; the effect of self-quarantine without access to medical services; and failure by COVID 19 suspected patients to seek medical services for various reasons, including stigma and fear of being quarantined.

The growing reported number of Brought in Dead (BID) bodies is extremely worrying and seems to confirm the current limited testing capacity for COVID 19 and the fact that an increasing number of patients are not seeking medical services from health facilities.

It may also be speaking to the dangers of self-quarantine for COVID19 patients without support from medical personnel as well as stigma associated with the pandemic.

Based on the foregoing, the Commission is calling for effective national leadership and revival of the campaign towards preventing, managing and controlling the Coronavirus pandemic in order to promote and protect the health and lives of the majority.

 

Issued by:

Mwelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
Human Rights Commission

The Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Commissioners, Management and Members of Staff of the Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) wish to heartily welcome and congratulate Reverend Agness Chongo - Phiri on her ratification as the 7th Commissioner. [Read more]

The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) is calling upon the Zambia Police Service to grant Mr. Chellah Tukuta police bond or take him to court immediately because his continued detention without trial is a violation of human rights.

The Commission is deeply concerned that Mr. Tukuta who has been charged with counts of criminal libel, threatening violence and racial discrimination has been in police custody for more than seven (7) days, which is over-detention and unlawful.

Over-detention constitutes extra-judicial punishment and must not be allowed in a democracy where there must be respect for the rule of law, constitutionalism and human rights. Therefore Law Enforcement Officers must refrain from unlawfully punishing, humiliating and degrading suspects during their course of executing their mandate of enforcing the law, which is critical to the criminal justice system of any country.

The Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), Chapter 88 of the Laws of Zambia, which guides on the promotion and protection of the Right to Liberty as enshrined under Article 13 of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia stipulates under Section 33 that anyone arrested without a warrant and not facing an offence attracting death penalty should be taken to court within 24 hours of being arrested and if it is not practicable, he or she should be granted police bond.

The offences Mr. Tukuta is facing are all bondable and therefore his continued detention beyond the prescribed legal period is unjustifiable and a violation of his right to liberty and the right to secure protection of the law as stipulated by Articles 13 and 18 of the Constitution of Zambia respectively and various regional and international human rights instruments.

It is unacceptable for law enforcement officers to engage in blatant discriminatory application of the law whereby some suspects are automatically granted police bond while others are subjected to unlawful over-detention in violation of human rights with impunity.

Therefore, it is only fair and just that Chellah Tukuta is granted police bond pending his appearance in court.

Issued by:

Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) has received numerous calls from both members of the public and the media regarding yesterday’s Press Briefing by the Minister of Lusaka Province, Hon. Bowman Lusambo, MP at which he allegedly threatened some individuals and Artistes for expressing their opinions through recorded videos which were being circulated on various social media platforms.
 
Following those calls, the Commission took time to review the said recorded videos by Mr. Brian Bwembya, whose Artiste name is B-Flow, Mr. Kings Malembe Malembe and the Press Briefing by Honourable Lusambo.
 
Having reviewed the videos in question, it is the well-considered view of the Commission that the expressions contained in the videos were within the realm of the Right to Freedom of Expression as contained under Article 20 of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia and various Regional and International Human Rights Instruments to which Zambia is a Party.
 
The Commission did not also find anything injurious to the rights or reputation of the Presidency in the reviewed videos. Therefore, the lawful limitation of freedom of expression on account of defamation of the President does not arise. Further, the information expressed therein did not constitute any threat to public order, public morality or national security, which are stipulated international standards for restricting human rights, including freedom of expression.
 
It would seem from the recorded videos that the objective of the involved individuals was to advise the President and also express themselves on governance matters, which is their constitutional and democratic right.
 
The review of the Press Briefing Video Recording by the Commission has found that it contained remarks that amounted to suppression of the fundamental right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution and various human rights instruments. Worse still, the language used was demeaning and derogatory. Further, the Commission received calls from individuals who expressed fear that the remark by the Minister that the castigated individuals were “too naked to misbehave….let them know their boundaries”, bordered on threats on their lives, which is deeply regrettable.
 
Therefore, the Commission calls upon everyone to remain vigilant against any early warning signs of dictatorial tendencies characterized by intimidation of individuals and suppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
 
Suppression of media freedom and freedom of expression are the main features of a dictatorship and must not be allowed to take root in Zambia by condemning such acts whenever they are committed by anybody.
 
The Commission also calls upon Government leaders to adhere to the rule of law, constitutionalism and respect for human rights and refrain from over relying on common sense when dealing with national matters.
 
Further, leaders are advised to use respectful language when engaging with individuals regardless of their status whether young, poor or vulnerable. Using threatening and disrespectful language against individuals by leaders amounts to abuse of authority and is incompatible with tenets of good governance and democracy. 
 
Issued by:
 
Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) commends His Excellency, Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the President of the Republic of Zambia for pardoning 2,984 inmates and granting of unconditional bail to 2,719 remandees.
 
The pardoning of 2,829 male and 155 female inmates on the eve of Africa Freedom Day is commendable as their right to liberty has been restored. The combined 5,703 number of inmates and remandees that was released yesterday is extremely significant because it will contribute to family and society stability.
 
The granting of unconditional bail to 2,719 remandees is commendable. The Commission has always been advocating for granting of bail to suspects facing bailable offences and misdemeanours as has been done by the President. It is hoped that a sustainable and predictable mechanism will be put in place to prescribe bail as a right in order to enhance the rights to liberty and the presumption of innocence until proven or pleaded guilty.
 
The pardoning of inmates is commendable because in addition to reducing congestion, it will also contribute to social cohesion, reduction of crime and national productivity. The pardoning has provided an opportunity to ex-inmates to utilize their entrepreneurship skills they ex-inmates were learning in the Correctional Facilities and this has potential to contribute to reducing household poverty and hunger as well as national food.
 
It should be noted that the conviction of individuals, particularly bread winners, contributes to family disintegration and contributes to a wide range of social ills such as juvenile delinquency, sexual abuse and other forms of crime by some family members as a coping mechanism in the absence of a bread winner.
 
It is also worth noting that the decision by the President under the prerogative of mercy as provided for under Article 97 of the Constitution of Zambia [Amendment] Act No. 2 of 2016 is especially significant during this period when the country is preventing, managing and controlling coronavirus.
 
The decongestion of Correctional Facilities means that the risk of contracting and spreading the virus in those facilities has been reduced, and that is a commendable executive decision in the fight against COVID 19.
 
The Commission wishes to also appeal to family members and society at large to accept, welcome and embrace the pardoned inmates because in the first place such inmates came from those families and society and they are back as law abiding citizens after going through the criminal justice system.
 
It should be appreciated that released inmates are going to inevitably face serious emotional, psychological and socio-economic challenges during their family and community re-entry and they will need multi-sectorial and specialized counselling and support to help them cope up.
 
 The Commission is aware that the Zambia Correctional Services has been conducting Pre-Relief Counselling to the pardoned inmates to make them aware of the adverse challenges that may face after being released in order to create resilience in them. However, families and society at large have a primary responsibility to accept, welcome and support the pardoned inmates to fully reintegrate and contribute to public safety and the well-being of society at large.
 
Further, the pardoned inmates must not betray the President’s compassion by reoffending society. Equally, those granted unconditional bail must remain law abiding citizens during the period of being on bail and ensure that they are available at the time they may be required to appear before the court of law.
 
The Commission is hopeful that the Zambia Correctional Services through its Correctional and Extensional Services will be adequately supported to play their family tracing and tie up, community re-entry and victim-offender mediation and reconciliation services to sustain the positive impact of the measure undertaken by the President.
 
Issued by:
 
Mweelwa  Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) strongly condemns the continued violation of media freedom and freedom of expression in Muchinga Province by suspected Patriotic Front (PF) party supporters.
 
The storming of Isoka Radio Station, Muchinga Radio Station and the cancellation of a paid up Programme on Mpika Radio Station to stop live Radio Broadcasting Programmes featuring United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Mr. Hakainde Hichilema via a telephone interview are a systematic violation of human rights and criminal in nature and must not be allowed to continue.
 
The Commission, therefore, calls on the Government to immediately take practical steps to stop the violations, criminal and undemocratic conduct to restore the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression in Muchinga Province and indeed the whole country.
 
The Government must decisively deal with such acts of lawlessness and human rights violations because they have potential to contribute to widespread political violence and thereby endangering the lives of Journalists and other citizens, particularly during the countdown to the 2021 Presidential and General Elections.
 
Media Freedom and Freedom of Expression are fundamental human rights and critical to good governance and national development. The Government has the primary responsibility to ensure that those who violate human rights are arrested and punished in accordance with the existing laws while victims must be protected from continued abuse or violations.
 
Regrettably, the Commission has noted that even after the Government through the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Hon. Dora Siliya, MP, who is also the Chief Government Spokesperson, condemned the interference of programming on Mpika and Muchinga Radio Stations, the attacks on Radio Stations by suspected PF supporters have continued unabated.
 
It would seem that the perpetrators ignored the Government guidance through Honourable Siliya and instead heeded to the call to block Mr. Hichilema from speaking on any Radio Station in Muchinga Province, which was made through a Press Statement attributed to the ruling party’s Muchinga Province Chairperson, Mr. Alex Simuwelu, on the same day the Minister held a Press Statement.
 
Thus, there is general view that the cancellation of the Radio Programme on Mpika Radio Station on 13th May 2020, the attack of Muchinga Radio Station on 15th May 2020 and Radio Isoka on 18th May 2020 appear to be backed by the ruling party leadership going by the Statement attributed to the PF Provincial Chairperson.
 
The Commission is deeply concerned at the failure to arrest the identified cadres who stormed Muchinga Radio Station amidst a live programme, as well as taking action against the Mpika District Commissioner, Mr. Moses Katebe, who cancelled the Radio Programme and Mr. Simuwelu whose statement bordered on discrimination, inciting hatred, violence and breach of peace.
 
The Government is urged to effectively meet its obligation of ensuring that both State and Non-State actors refrain from engaging in such acts of gross human rights violations. Unless the perpetrators are brought to book, the Government will be seen to be failing in its duty to protect and promote human rights and instead allowing the violations to continue with impunity.
 
It is therefore the Commission’s expectation that the Government will take practical action against the perpetrators of the said human rights violations as a matter of good governance, respect for human rights, constitutionalism and the rule of law.
 
There is also need for a clear assurance by the Government to protect the right of everyone, including Mr. Hichilema’s, to democratically participate in public affairs of this nation, anywhere in this country, on an equal footing with the ruling party, without any form of discrimination, intimidation and harassment.
 
Issued by:
 
Mudford Z. Mwandenga
Chairperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

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