The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) is calling on political parties involved in political and electoral violence to direct their supporters to lay down “pangas” (machetes) and other dangerous weapons and stop all forms of violence in order to create a peaceful electoral environment before, during and after the 12th August 2021 general elections.
The sporadic incidences of political and electoral-related violence and crimes are extremely worrying. For instance, during the week of 19th to 23rd July 2021, the Commission under the Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) system received 18 such cases. Out of 18 cases, eight (8) were attributed to the Patriotic Front (PF) while five (5) to the United Party for National Development (UPND) supporters as perpetrators while the perpetrators for six cases have not yet been identified.
The incidences included, but not limited to, the destruction of property and campaign materials of political opponents, physical assault, threatening violence, intimidation, confrontation and disruption of campaigns or processions for opponents.
The Commission is gravely concerned because such acts are negatively impacting on a wide range of human rights such as the right to personal security, the right to property, the right to freedom of movement, assembly and ultimately may undermine the right to vote freely.
To this effect, the Commission calls upon the PF and UPND top leadership to order their supporters to lay down their weapons of violence and instead pick up their National Registration Cards and Voters’ Cards which are the only legal “weapons” authorised in a democratic election.
There should be no effort spared towards bringing about and maintaining a peaceful environment because members of the public and all political party members deserve safety and enjoyment of human rights. Further, if acts of political and electoral violence are not curtailed, there is real danger that they may undermine the constitutionally guaranteed human right of the electorate to freely express their will to vote for candidates of their choice.
Finally, while commending the Police High Command for their visibility and strong public pronouncements against violence, the Commission wishes to call for firm and fair enforcement of the law in order to end impunity and protect human rights without any political discrimination.
The Commission is particularly concerned that the directive by the Inspector General (IG) of Police to officers to use unqualified force to maintain law and order has potential to be misconstrued as an order for police brutality, which is excessive and unwarranted use of police force. It must be noted that in the past, the use of force by the police has resulted into grave violation of human rights such as the right to life through extra-judicial killings, the right to protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the right to liberty through arbitrary arrests and detention of suspects.
The Commission wishes to advise police officers to operate within the provisions of the law because, notwithstanding the order by the IG, they will be held individually accountable through the courts of law in the event that they commit a crime or violate human rights during the course of enforcing the law.
Human Rights Commission