The Human Rights Commission says it is deeply concerned at the reported detention of Loveness Katongo Mwale, the wife to the Police Officer who is alleged to have shot dead his colleague in Lusaka and is on the run.
Commission spokesperson Mwelwa Muleya says the relatives to Ms. Mwale complained to the Commission that she was brutally apprehended by Police Officers in three vehicles on Friday 11th January 2019 and taken to Chelston Police Station where she was detained.
Mr. Muleya said the Commission has also received disturbing reports from Ms. Mwale’s relatives that she has allegedly been tortured and was being denied access to medication and that relatives did not know her whereabouts since Saturday 12th January 2019 when she was last seen in detention at Chelston Police Station in Lusaka.
“Since Monday 14th January 2019, the Commission has been following up with the Police to find out the whereabouts of Ms. Mwale and the information obtained is that she accompanied police officers to Mongu to help track down her husband, Edwin Kabasiya, the police officer alleged to have shot dead Constable Lennox Kapila”, Mr. Muleya said.
He said the Commission is seriously concerned at the flagrant violation of Ms. Mwale’s constitutional right to liberty as enshrined under Article 13 of the Constitution of Zambia.
Mr. Muleya said the right to liberty can only be lawfully taken away, among other circumstances, where there is a court order or upon reasonable suspicion of a person having committed, or is about to commit a criminal offence under the law in force in Zambia.
He said based on preliminary information gathered by the Commission, there is neither a court order nor reasonable suspicion of Ms. Mwale having committed any criminal offence warranting her detention.
“Further, it is established international human rights law that prolonged isolation and deprivation of communication with others as is the case with Ms. Mwale’s detention which amounts to cruel and inhuman treatment, harmful to the psychological and moral integrity of the person and a violation of the inherent dignity of a human being.
He said the Commission frowns upon any form of human rights violation such as the continued unlawful practice by the Police of detaining individuals to help with investigations.
Mr. Muleya said the position of the law regarding when the police can arrest or detain someone was clarified in the case of DANIEL CHIZOKA MBANDANGOMA v THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (1979) Z.R. 45 (H.C.), in which the court held, inter alia; that “the police can only arrest persons for offences and have no power to arrest anyone in order to make inquiries…”, and that “arresting and detaining anyone for purposes of facilitating investigations was unlawful and amounted to false imprisonment”.
“Therefore, the Commission calls upon the Police to immediately release Ms. Mwale from their custody and respect her rights to liberty, health, inherent dignity and allow her to communicate and meet with her family and relatives”, He added.
Mr. Muleya has reminded the police that the means does not justify the end and that Law enforcement officers must always conduct their operations within the ambit of the law regardless of the gravity or complexity of the matter at hand.