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The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) is deeply concerned that the cancellation of the broadcasting licence of Prime Television on 9th April 2020 by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has had an immediate negative impact on a wide range of human rights and freedoms of both the workers and the general public and calls for urgent remedial measures.
 
To this end, the Commission is specifically calling for constructive dialogue and resolution of the differences that have resulted in the revocation of the broadcasting licence of Prime Television by the IBA in order to restore the affected human rights and freedoms.
 
It is regrettable that the cancellation of the licence has with immediate effect thrown a number of Journalists and all those whose livelihood depended on the continued operation of the Private Television Station into the category of unemployed majority citizens who are extremely struggling for survival under the current economic difficulties.  As a result, in addition to their right to employment, the basic rights of Prime TV employees and that of their family members to food, shelter, education and health, among others, are in serious jeopardy.
 
Further, the obliteration of the operations of Prime TV has deprived millions of individuals of their right to receive and/ or impart information and opinion through Prime TV which was broadcasting diverse and divergent views, including humanitarian support for vulnerable groups and individuals.
 
The Commission wishes to remind that human rights are matters or governance and as such, the government has a primary responsibility and obligation to respect and protect them from any form of violation.
 
It is the considered view of the Commission that while some government officials may have felt injured by the actions of Prime TV, it is an obligation of the Government to restrain itself from making decisions that are detrimental to respect for human rights and inclusive governance.
 
So far Zambia prides itself of having a robust liberalized media policy which has over the years resulted into the mushrooming of a vibrant, independent and pluralistic media industry promoting and protecting expression of divergent views as is necessary in a democracy.
 
The Commission is therefore confident that the government will endeavour to uphold and protect that progressive human rights and good governance record of international high standing by ensuring that the broadcasting licence of Private Television is restored.
 
It should be noted that although Prime TV was a privately owned station, it had grown into a national symbol of the positive role of the media in promoting and protecting pluralistic views which are necessary for inclusive and sustainable national development.
 
Issued by:
 
Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) calls for continued compliance with the guidelines on preventing the spread of coronavirus because they are necessary for the achievement of a legitimate public purpose of promoting and protecting the rights to health and life.
 
The Commission has observed that while some people are observing the guidelines, social distancing largely remains a challenge, particularly in public service institutions, public places and public service vehicles such as buses. Further, some essential workers have not been provided with adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), a situation that is compromising their rights to health and life. 
 
This is of great concern to the Commission because failure to adhere to the guidelines and providing Personal Protective Equipment to those in the frontline of fighting the coronavirus could reverse the progressive achievements being made towards containing the spread of COVID-19 and this can have far-reaching consequences on the country at large.
 
The right to life is linked to public health and it is absolutely neccessry that all stakeholders, including employers, continue to abide by the public health guidelines during this difficult period of fighting the coronavirus pandemic in order to save lives.The Commission therefore appeals to everyone to continue adhering to the prescribed guidelines because they are necessary for the greater good.

It is important to appreciate the fact that although the guidelines such as restrictions on public gatherings may have caused negative socio-economic effects, such measures have a legitimate objective of promoting public health and protecting life. However, there is also need for targeted measures aimed at mitigating such negative effects of the guidelines on the public, particularly on the vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, the elderly, child and female headed-households and others with underlying health conditions.
 
Issued by:
 
Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
The Human Rights Commission wishes to commend Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Kakoma Kanganja, for directing police officers to release persons charged with misdemeanors and contravention offences on police bond when he announced the constitution of a committee to coordinate the Zambia Police response to the Convid-19 Pandemic.
 
The Commission believes that the directive by the Inspector-General of Police should be the norm and not the exception made during this period of the Covid-19 Pandemic only as a preventative measure aimed at curbing the spreading of the virus to persons held in police cells.
 
The detention of suspects beyond the prescribed 24 hours is common place and of grave concern to the Commission as such overuse of pre-trial detention has continued to contribute to overcrowding in police cells and the resulting violation of the rights of the detainees.   It is extremely important that the Police should consider granting police bond for all offences that are bailable/bondable and remember that the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia guarantees to everyone the presumption of innocence in the event of being suspected to be a criminal.
 
The Commission is confident that the directive by the Inspector-General of Police will be consistently implemented by police officers to ensure that all persons who are charged with bondable offences are granted police bond as a matter of law as provided for under section 33 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code Act Chapter 88 of the Laws of Zambia which provides that:  
“When any person has been taken into custody without a warrant for an offence other than an offence punishable with death, the officer in charge of the police station to which such person shall be brought may, in any case, and shall, if it does not appear practicable to bring such person before an appropriate competent court within twenty-four hours after he was so taken into custody, inquire into the case, and, unless the offence appears to the officer to be of a serious nature, release the person, on his executing a bond, with or without sureties, for a reasonable amount, to appear before a competent court at a time and place to be named in the bond: but, where any where any person is retained in custody, he shall be brought before a competent court as soon as practicable. Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, an officer in charge of a police station may release a person arrested on suspicion on a charge of committing any offence, when, after due police inquiry, insufficient evidence is, in his opinion, disclosed on which to proceed with the charge.”
 
The Human Rights Commission is 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.

Simon Mulumbi
Acting Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
In a vote of thanks delivered during the International Women’s Day commemoration held at the Lusaka Show Grounds on 9th March 2020, Human Rights Commission Chairperson, Mr. Muford Mwandenga, called for effective leadership and co-ordination of collaborative efforts of various stakeholders to address the challenges faced by women.
 
Mr. Mwandenga expressed concern at the emergence of and the sustained political violence in the country which affected girls and women, particularly those with disabilities and the elderly, and prevented women from democratic political participation and governance of the country.
 
Mr. Mwandenga said that the Human Rights Commission looked forward to a day when the country would start to see practical measures being taken aimed at punishing perpetrators of violence regardless of their gender or political affiliation.
 
Mr. Mwandenga called for increased support and measures towards human rights sensitization, further legal reforms, law enforcement and general protection and empowerment of women in social, economic, civil and political spheres. [Read Full Speech].
The Human Rights Commission wishes to express its grave concern at the continuing reports of gassing activities and the killing of people suspected of being behind the alleged ritual killings and gassing incidents.
 
Since reports of suspected ritual killings and gassing activities emerged, there has been a wide range of human rights violations and abuses which have adversely impacted on the right to life, the right to privacy, the right to property, freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment and freedom of movement, among others.
 
Unconfirmed reports indicate that a number of lives have been lost at the hands of law enforcement officers as well as angry members of the public meting out instant mob justice against persons suspected of carrying out ritual killings and gassing activities.
 
The Commission is particularly concerned at the continuing arbitrary loss of lives akin to extra-judicial killings involving State Agents, such as the alleged shooting by police officers of a pupil at Chazanga Primary School and the alleged shooting of a member of a neighborhood watch by officers of the Zambia Army in Mufulira.
 
The Commission is equally disturbed by some unverified reports of unlawful killing of persons perceived to be involved in ritual killings and gassing incidents that have been reported in some parts of the country. The Commission is deeply saddened by reports of barbaric acts by some members of the public who dragged a patient out of a hospital bed at Mazabuka General Hospital and later set him ablaze on suspicion that he was linked to gassing activities.
 
There have been similar incidences reported in other parts of the country where innocent lives have been lost at the hands of members of the public who resort to beating, stoning and burning people alleged to be behind the ritual killings and gassing activities.
 
The Commission wishes to advise that the fundamental right to life is protected under Article 12 of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia and no one may be arbitrarily deprived of his or her right to life. The right to life may be curtailed only under very strict and specific grounds permitted by the law which include the execution of a death sentence. Therefore, the continuing arbitrary loss of life, whether at the hands of law enforcement officers or members of the public, constitutes a gross violation of the right to life.
 
Further, the Commission is concerned at the continuing unlawful acts by members of the public who have resorted to blocking roads and harassing innocent members of the public as a way of expressing their anger and frustration at the alleged failure by the law enforcement officers to effectively deal with the prevailing insecurity in the country.
The Commission strongly condemns the unlawful acts of blocking roads by angry mobs, such as what happened recently on Mufumbwe-Chavuma and the Mazabuka-Lusaka Roads, where motorists were being stopped and searched on suspicious of carrying materials allegedly used in gassing activities. Such lawlessness and criminality are totally unacceptable and must not be allowed to continue.
 
While the Commission encourages the communities to be on high alert and work closely with the police in bringing to an end the prevailing insecurity and distressing situation in the country, it does not condone individuals taking the law into their own hands and abusing human rights. Those carrying out unlawful acts and abusing human rights on the pretext of taking measures to respond to the atrocious acts of gassing households or suspected ritual killings should know that they would be held criminally responsible if and when they are arrested.
 
The Commission commends the joint efforts of the Police and other State agencies and security wings aimed at putting to an end the gassing activities. It is the hope of the Commission that the law enforcement agencies will move quickly to restore order and the rule of law in the country by taking all necessary measures to ensure that life and property are protected while people are allowed to freely exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms.
 
The Commission also calls upon the police to conduct prompt and thorough investigations into the reported cases of arbitrary loss of life and property in order to ensure that perpetrators, be it law enforcement officers or members of the public, are identified, arrested and subjected to the due process of the law.
 
In the same vein, the Commission urges the police to ensure that persons who have been detained in connection with the gassing incidents are dealt with in accordance with Article 18 of the Constitution which, among other things, guarantees the presumption of innocence and fair trial within a reasonable time.
 
The Commission also wishes to strongly condemn the disruption of the Public Discussion on Bill No. 10 organised by the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) at Intercontinental Hotel on 17th February, 2020.

And in this regard the Commission calls for firm action to be taken by the Zambia Police and other State Security Agencies against individuals who disrupted the LAZ public discussion at Intercontinental Hotel. The Commission believes that it is within the competence of the Zambia Police to carry out thorough investigations into the uncalled for disruption of a discussion that was well intended.
 
The Commission understands that several people were attacked, including those who were fleeing for their safety, and were injured whilst their property was being snatched. The violent actions by the political cadres demonstrate impunity of the highest level and undermine the rule of law.
 
And as it is certain that the public discussion was disrupted by political cadres, the Commissions calls upon all leaders of the political parties to restrain their cadres from engaging in acts that are in conflict with the enjoyment of rights and freedoms of the members of the Public to discuss matters of public interest.
 
[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Zambian Constitution [Amendment] Act No. 2 of 2016 with an overall mandate of ensuring that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted]
 
Issued by:
 
Mr. Mudford Zachariah Mwandenga
CHAIRPERSON
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) calls for a balancing act of upholding human rights while effectively responding to the threat posed by reported cases of teargassing households with intoxicating chemicals.
 
The Commission is equally concerned at the acts of teargassing households and calls for effective police and community collaboration to ensure that perpetrators are arrested and receive the prescribed form of punishment before the courts of law.
 
The killing of suspects and destruction of both public and private properties by the angry mobs is extremely worrying and must stop because mob justice has the potential to cause the death and destruction of properties of innocent individuals.
 
The Commission understands the legitimate anger and fear that has gripped communities as a result of reports of suspected criminals teargassing households but that should not justify lawlessness and commission of atrocious crimes such as murder, arson and wanton destruction of property.
 
There is need to respect the right to life and property as well as the rule of law whereby suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty by the courts of law while remaining vigilant against insecurity.
 
Therefore, the Commission appeals to both the law enforcement officers and members of the public to refrain from extra-judicial killings or killings of suspects because of the inherent danger of killing innocent people.
 
The members of the public are also called upon to refrain from destroying public properties such as Police Buildings and private properties but instead continue supporting the police to lawfully carryout its work.
 
The danger caused by suspected ritual killers is real and the Commission understands that people’s livelihoods have been adversely affected as those who work during early and late hours are unable to go for work for fear of being attacked either by the criminals, community members or even law enforcement officers on suspicion of being criminals.
 
There is need for communities to work closely with the police in forming organised structures such as Community Criminal Prevention Units commonly known as Neighbourhood Watch to respond to the criminal acts of teargassing households.
 
Issued by:
 
Mweelwa Muleya
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

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