UN human rights experts have criticised President Edgar Lungu for pardoning General Kanene who was convicted of the rape of a 14-year-old girl and appointing him as an ambassador in the fight against gender violence.
General Kanene whose real name is Clifford Dimba was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to 18 years in prison, but was pardoned by President Lungu after serving one year.
Since his release, the singer has been involved in two further incidents of violence against women.
“Such an outrageous release and appointment as an ambassador for the fight against gender-based violence not only traumatises the victim all over again but discourages other victims from reporting similar offences,” said Dubravka Šimonovi, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.
“The pardon and appointment undermine the strong message against sexual abuse of women and girls that was sent with the original sentence and trivialise the serious nature of these offences,” Ms Šimonovi added.
“Rather, Clifford Dimba has been placed in a prominent position and even portrayed as a role model to fight violence against women.”
UN experts have since called on the Zambian Government to withdraw Dimba’s appointment and ensure there are no further pardons for crimes against women and girls.
“This clearly shows that impunity for these offences generates more violence and harm,” said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
“Furthermore it constitutes an utter disrespect for women and girls in Zambia who might rightly feel that their Government is not protecting them. The pardon has meant impunity for an abhorrent crime and his subsequent appointment as ambassador for the fight against such violence is more than cynical and adds insult to injury for the victim,” she added.
The two independent experts highlighted that the granting of a pardon under such circumstances is incompatible with Zambia’s international human rights obligations and the President’s role as a champion in the UN Women’s campaign, He for She.
“For rights to have meaning, effective remedies must be available to redress violations,” said Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio. The best interest of the child should always be considered when considering the release of an offender, the two experts stressed.
“For rights to have meaning, effective remedies must be available to redress violations,” said Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio.
The experts urged the Zambian Government to hold accountable offenders of sexual and gender-based violence without exceptions.
Zambia, as a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, should also ensure the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim, which were clearly undermined in this case.
Protection and prevention measures should also be adopted, including awareness-raising and education campaigns targeted at both men and women on the importance of gender equality and respect for women and girls.
The best interest of the child should always be considered when considering the release of an offender, the two experts stressed.