US State Dept report highlights human right violations in Zambia

US State Dept report highlights human right violations in Zambia

POLICE-UNZA-RIOTS2-624x507The US State Department human rights report for Zambia covering the year 2015 has highlighted several abuses and violations of human rights.
On last year’s presidential by election which was won by Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front, the report notes that media coverage, police presence and legal restrictions heavily favoured the Patriotic Front and prevented the election from being genuinely fair.
Other abuses included reports of unlawful killings, torture and beatings by the police while political violence, restrictions on freedom of the press, assembly, association, speech and gender based violence were recorded.
The report notes that government took selective and halting steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, targeting mostly those who opposed the ruling party while impunity remained a problem as ruling party supporters were either not prosecuted for severe crimes or, if prosecuted were released after serving a fraction of their sentences.
The reports states that on 14th May 2015, Police in Mongu in Western Province short and killed an unnamed man suspected of breaking into the residence of the Provincial Police Commissioner.
The police are also cited for use of excessive force during arrests and detention of suspects and points to the case of one Boyd Nyambe who was beaten unconscious after he was suspected of leading a group of ethnic Lozis who painted slogans on government vehicles in support of an independent Barotseland.
The police are reported to have told the Human Rights Commission that beating of suspects in detention helped them to obtain confessions.
The report states under freedom of speech and expression that the government was sensitive to public criticism in general and the opposition in particular.
It says the government was quick to prosecute critics on the pretext of incitement of public disorder and brings out the case of musician Chama Fumba alias Pilato who was arrested and charged with conduct likely to cause breach of peace after he released a song critical of the Patriotic Front. Pilato was released on 9th June 2015 after pressure on the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) by NGO’s and diplomats.
On media the report takes note of biased coverage by Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) which almost had exclusive coverage of the PF and government while failing to cover the opposition parties.
The report also cites harassment of community radio stations by the PF and gives an example of the incident on 15th July 2015 when PF cadres stormed Radio Chengelo in Kitwe and prevented a live interview of UPND president Hakainde Hichilema.
It further notes attempts by the PF government to restrict access to critical online publications especially the Zambian Watchdog and notes Information Minister Chishimba Kambwili’s threat to use the ‘CIA’ to close the Zambian Watchdog just a month after he was appointed Information Minister.
The report also states that the Zambian government does not recognise the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 which was signed between Britain, Northern Rhodesia and the Litunga of Barotseland and notes that four Barotseland activists are in prison over secessionist activities.

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