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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

The Human Rights Commission is urging all registers voters in areas where Local Government by-elections are taking place tomorrow to turn up in large numbers to exercise their democratic right to vote for the Mayor of the City of Lusaka as well as Chairpersons and Councillors of their own choices in the respective District Councils.

Voting in an election is an important democratic right and duty of any adult citizen because it has a direct bearing on the governance of the country and service delivery to the majority of the citizenry.

It is therefore extremely important for all the registered voters in the City of Lusaka, in Chilanga, newly created Districts and other districts where vacancies have occurred for various reasons to turn up enmasse to vote for the Mayor, Council Chairpersons and Councillors of their own choice.

The right to franchise or vote during an election provides one of the rarest opportunities for the citizens to directly participate in the governance of a country through voting for leaders to represent their interests. That right to vote should therefore be exercised in an informed effective manner.

The Commission is therefore calling upon all registered voters to organise their green National Registration Cards (NRC) and their voters’ cards and turn up on Thursday 26th July 2018 at their respective Polling Stations and vote for the candidates of their own choice.

In this respect, the Commission appeals to everyone not to engage in any act that has potential to undermine the right of any individual to participate in voting tomorrow as that will be a violation of their rights and criminal in nature.

All stakeholders all required to observe and respect the provisions of the Public Order Act and the Electoral Code of Conduct in order to provide a conducive environment for exercising the right to vote and generally to participate in the electoral process as a matter of right.
 
The contesting political parties are specifically encouraged to instruct their members and supporters to refrain from engaging in lawlessness but allow the Electoral Commission of Zambia to carry out their work without any interference. On the other hand, those managing the elections should conduct themselves in a manner that gives confidence and assurance to the voters that their will as expressed through casting of votes will be respected and guaranteed.

It is important to bear in mind that the free will of the people expressed in a free and fair election is the basis of the legitimacy of any elective public office. It must, therefore, be respected as a basis for sustainable inclusive development and peace.

Finally, the Commission commends the Patriotic Front and the United Party for National Development for their public commitment to ending violence and maintaining law, order and peace for the common good. That is as it should be because violence contributes to violation of a wide range of rights and freedoms and it is an undemocratic practice that undermines national development.

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 is calling for total eradication of all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals as the world commemorates the international day in Support of the Victims of Torture which falls every year on 26th June.

As the United Nations (UN) General Secretary António Guterres has stated, "Torture remains unacceptable and unjustified at all times, including during states of emergency, political instability, or even in a war. On this day, let us also pay tribute to all those who stand in solidarity with victims and their families – and reaffirm our commitment to ending this abominable and useless practice."

As the world commemorates the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Commission is calling upon everyone to remember and/or support those who have been tortured, lost lives or limbs or nursing injuries as a result of torture and those who may still be undergoing various forms of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in various detention and correctional facilities.

The International Day in support of victims of torture was declared on 12th December in 1997 by the UN General Assembly with a view of rallying the international community and everyone everywhere to eradicate all acts of torture. This day is also aimed at reminding State Parties of their obligation to ensure that the UN Convention against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (UNCAT) that was adopted in 1984 is effectively implemented.
Zambia ratified the UNCAT in 1998 but she has not yet domesticated it by way of enacting a national law criminalizing torture. Article 4 of the stated Convention provides that each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law.  

The Commission is hopeful that Zambia will criminalise torture by enacting a law to that effect so that perpetrators and victims of torture will begin to receive appropriate punishment and remedies through the courts of law. It should also be noted that Zambia accepted the recommendation made by nine countries during the Universal Periodic Review process at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in November 2017 that Zambia should end all acts of torture and enact a law criminalizing torture.

It is sad to note that even if Article 15 of Zambia’s Bill of Rights absolutely prohibits torture and other like ill-treatment, this particular constitutional prohibitions cannot be invoked in Zambia’s courts of law because there is no national enabling legislation which defines torture and prescribes penalties in line with the criminal justice system.

The announcement by the Government in December 2017, that Cabinet had in principle adopted the Bill Criminalising Torture in Zambia was a landmark development. It should however be stated that the nation and the international community are anxiously looking forward to the government tabling in Parliament the draft Bill criminalizing torture in Zambia for enactment into law. The enactment of the law criminalizing torture will give legal effect to the constitutional provision against torture and result into the domestication of the UNCAT, thereby enabling Zambia to meet both her national and international human rights obligation towards taking appropriate and effective measures against acts of torture.

It is extremely saddening that despite torture being absolutely prohibited under international law as well as under Article 15 of Zambia’s Bill of Rights, some law enforcement officers habitually engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, including torture, to extract confessions from suspects.  

The Commission wishes to remind law enforcement officers that it is not a defence to argue that one was just following orders from superiors for acts of torture. Torture is a crime against humanity and its absolute prohibition has become part of customary international law.

The practices of torturing and humiliating suspects which sometimes begin at a point of apprehending or arresting a suspect and continue during the course of interrogations at Police Station and/or other detention or correction facilities must stop.

The Commission will continue to advocate for enactment of the law criminalizing torture and for building of capacity of law enforcement officers by training them in modern investigations skills and providing them with modern equipment, tools and facilities to enable them carry out their work without recording to acts of torture. Further, the Commission will continue its public outreach activities aimed at promoting behavioural change against acts of torture in order to protect the inherent rights and dignity of individuals .

The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the 1991 Zambian Constitution as amended by Act Number 2 of 2016 to, among other human rights functions, ensure that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted.

Issued by:
 
Mweelwa Muleya
Chief of Information, Education and Training
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is deeply disturbed at the tragic loss of lives at the Mining Slag Dump commonly known as Black Mountain in Kitwe on 20th June 2018 and calls for compensation of families of the deceased in line with national and international human rights obligations and practices.

The Government has a primary obligation of ensuring that where human rights violations occur, including violations caused by Non-State Actors, victims of such violations must receive effective remedies or redress. In the case of the Black Mountain accident, the right to life has been violated and the Government must ensure that the families of the victims are compensated accordingly.

The Commission further calls for thorough investigations into the cause of the tragic accident in order to come up with comprehensive and sustainable best mining practices at the Black Mountain in order to protect human rights, particularly the rights to life and health.

The Commission has already dispatched a team of investigators to thoroughly investigate the circumstances and conditions that may have contributed to the tragic loss of lives and come up with comprehensive recommendations for the government’s action in relation to the operations of the Black Mountain in Kitwe on the Copperbelt Province.

The Commission is undertaking the investigation within the context of Zambia’s obligation to adhere to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which generally serve to enhance standards and practices in business operations in relation to respect for human rights.

It should be noted that mining of any scale or size is a sensitive and risk business which by its nature calls for enhanced adherence to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, particularly safety and health conditions of those involved in its operations.

Although the Commission is yet to investigate the cause at the Black Mountain which resulted into a Black Tuesday through loss of lives and injuries, going by the numerous public safety concerns expressed prior to the accident, it can safely state that there is a prima facie case of inadequate safety standard measures contributing to the fatal accident.

It is therefore deeply regrettable that the right to life could not be protected by the key various stakeholders involved in the operations of the Black Mountain. The Government has a primary obligation of protecting human rights and, in this cases, it should have ensured that the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, particularly safety measures, were given primary consideration over anything else.

The Commission will continue and scale up stakeholders engagement and public awareness on Business and Human Rights in collaboration with the government which has the primary responsibility of promoting and protecting human rights.

[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Zambian Constitution (with an overall mandate and obligation of ensuring that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted]

Issue by:

Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

As Zambia joins the international community in commemorating the United Nations Refugee Day which falls every year on 20th June, the Human Rights Commission (HRC)wishes to commend the Zambian Government, its Co-operating and Development Partners and the local hosting communities for the continued and accelerated efforts towards promoting and protecting therights of asylum seekers and refugees.

The United Nations Refugee Day was declared in 2000 with a view of raising global awareness on the global shared responsibilities for millions of children, women and men who are forced to flee their countries mainly from threats of persecution, violence and conflict. Currently, the global estimated number of refugees is 68.5 million and as of end of February 2018, Zambia was hosting more than 70,000 Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

The HRC has in the last three weeks been on the ground assessing the human rights situation in various refugee transit camps and resettlements such as Kenani Refugee Transit Centreand Mantapala Refugee Settlement in Luapula Province, Maheba Refugee Settlement in North-Western Province and Mushakende Refugee Settlement in Western Province. The overall findings were that the Zambian Government with financial and technical assistance of various partners such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), local and international Non-Governmental Organisations and the respective local communities was doing its best to promote and protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.

The HRC wishes to particularly commend the Government of the Republic of Zambia for developing and implementing a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) at Mantapala Refugee Resettlement which focuses on both humanitarian and sustainable livelihoods of asylum seekers and refugees in an integrated manner with the local communities. The CRRF is an integral part of Global Compact on Refugees, which comprises the CRRF itself and a Programme of Actionon supporting countries affected by forced displacement and is expected to be launched by the UNHCR later this year.

The on-going construction of learning, health, water supply and sanitation and security related infrastructure at Mantapala is highly commendable as it will contribute to the promotion and protection of the rights of both the asylum seekers and refugees and the host communities. The HRC therefore calls upon the International Community and various stakeholders to scale up financial, technical and moral support to the Zambian Government to enable it meet its international obligation of supporting asylum seekers and refugees who have continued flocking into the country, particularly from the Democratic Republic of Congo due to the on-going conflict.

Further, the HRC wishes to commend the host communities for their resilience, compassion, generosity, hospitality and solidarity towards the asylum seekers and refugees. Asylum seekers and refugees are victims of grave human rights violations and are extremely vulnerable multiple ways as they are deprived of their basic needs as they flee their homeland with little or nothing of their possessions and find themselves in a strange environment.

The HRC also calls for increased and immediate efforts towards releasing of asylum seekers from any detention facility who may have been deemed as Prohibited Immigrants (IPs). Individuals who may have found themselves in such situation should either be integrated in Refugee Settlements or repatriated to their countries of origins if conditions exist in those countries that they will not be subjected to persecution.

On this important Global Refugee Day, the HRC joins the International Community through the UNHCR to call for accelerated shared responsibility towards promoting and protecting the rights of asylum seekers and refugees as well as the host communities in an integrated manner as provided by the CRRF.

[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Zambian Constitution (with an overall mandate and obligation of ensuring that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted]

Issued by:

Mudford.Z. Mwandenga Chairperson

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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