By Mweelwa Muleya
The Human Rights Commission wishes to put it on record that the Zambia Police Service treated the National Democratic Congress (NDC) President, Dr. Chishimba Kambwili’s wife in a cruel, inhuman and degrading manner when they were apprehending her at the Lusaka Magistrate Court premises in Lusaka on 20th October 2020.
Acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals or suspects are absolutely prohibited under Article 15 of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia and under International Human Rights Law.
Therefore, the State violated Mrs. Kambwili’s right to protection from inhuman or any form of ill-treatment regardless of the alleged offence she may have committed. Further, the Commission considers the Police action against Mrs. Kambwili to have been excessive and disproportionate to her alleged action. Police action was not only unlawful and a violation of human rights but unnecessary, unreasonable and unjustifiable in a democratic state such as Zambia in which human rights are supposed to be respected and protected.
There are no circumstances under which acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of suspects are justifiable. Such acts are universally absolutely prohibited and Zambia should not be seen to be among Pariah States where respect for human rights is concerned.
The Commission wishes to make it abundantly clear that it is not in any way against the maintenance of law and order as that is a constitutional mandate of the Zambia Police Service, which is also central to the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms. The Commission’s point of departure is when the police engages in acts of human rights violations.
The Police can still be firm and effective in executing their mandate without being brutal against suspects, particularly unarmed, defenseless and vulnerable individuals such as women and children.
It is regrettable that acts of police brutality against individuals continue unabated and are somewhat increasingly becoming the new normal of police operations during crowd management. Such impunity has resulted in numerous cases of gross violation of human rights, including the right to life through extra-judicial killings of citizens at the hands of police officers.
The Commission calls upon the Government, which has the trio primary obligation of respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights, to demonstrate leadership towards ending acts of police brutality which are giving a wrong impression that Zambia is steadily becoming a police state.
The Commission wishes to take this opportunity to remind both the State and Non-State Actors that under no circumstances are acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment permissible under both national and international human rights laws. Therefore, such acts reflect the extent to which the rule of law, constitutionalism and human rights are being violated.
Zambia is a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Government, therefore has an obligation to prevent such acts and/or punish perpetrators of such acts to end impunity, and also take remedial measures in protection of victims.
The author is the Spokesperson for the HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION