Amnesty International Report 2005 - Zambia
|Publication Date||25 May 2005|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2005 - Zambia , 25 May 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/429b27fd20.html [accessed 20 October 2014]|
Covering events from January - December 2004
Journalists and members of opposition or civil society organizations remained at risk of arbitrary detention or harassment, and members of parliament were among opposition leaders detained. Legal reforms to strengthen official responses to violence against women were promised. President Mwanawasa commuted some 60 death sentences but the death penalty was not abolished.
The Constitutional Review Commission largely appointed by President Mwanawasa in 2003 to review the Constitution was the focus of demands for popular consultation on fundamental constitutional reforms. In September, Justice Minister George Kunda threatened treason charges against critics demanding that a new Constitution be adopted by an elected assembly before elections were held in 2006. A petition to the Supreme Court challenging the results of the 2001 presidential elections, which observers regarded as unfair, had still not been heard by the end of 2004. Corruption charges against former President Frederick Chiluba, arrested in 2003 and released on bail to await trial, were drastically scaled down after the prosecution withdrew charges.
Threats to freedom of expression
Journalists, opposition supporters and members of civil society organizations perceived as critical of the government remained at risk of harassment or arrest. Although the courts have usually reversed unconstitutional government orders, they continued to be issued.
- On 5 January, Roy Clarke, a British national resident in Zambia for 40 years and columnist for The Post newspaper, was given 24 hours to leave the country after he had allegedly insulted President Mwanawasa in an article published the same day. The courts later rescinded the order.
- In May the women's organization Women for Change was threatened with deregistration and its Chairperson Emily Sikazwe with removal of her citizenship and deportation to Malawi, apparently because of her human rights work and criticism of the government.
- In November the authorities deregistered the Southern Africa Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD), a critic of the constitutional review process, claiming its activities were a threat to national security. The courts stayed the deregistration.
- In December, 11 members of parliament and 57 other protesters were briefly detained in Lusaka and charged with unlawful assembly after they attempted to demonstrate in support of their demand for a new Constitution before the 2006 elections. Journalists covering the protest were reportedly beaten by police officers.
Some opposition parties were denied permits to hold rallies by the police. Opposition officials were also unable to gain the same level of access to the state-controlled media as the ruling party.
- Permission to hold rallies was denied to the Zambia Republican Party in Lusaka in January, and the United Party for National Development in Mumbwa in July. At a rally in Lusaka in August by the opposition Patriotic Front, two people were injured when supporters of the ruling party attacked participants.
Violence against women
The high level of violence against women in Zambia was highlighted in a US Agency for International Development survey published in June, which found that 48 per cent of women respondents said they had been subjected to physical or sexual abuse. One Lusaka hospital alone was reported in June to be treating four new rape cases every day. The police Victim Support Unit lacked capacity, particularly in rural areas where customary law continues to limit women's sexual and reproductive rights.
In June lawyers' organizations criticized the inadequacy of laws on violence against women. In response, President Mwanawasa directed that the law be strengthened. A bill to amend the law had not come before parliament by the end of 2004.
Torture of suspects in police custody continued. In
May, a member of the government expressed concern at the high cost of compensation paid to victims of police brutality.
- In August, Lusaka police officers reportedly beat Joseph Bwalya with an iron bar after he demanded payment of a debt from a former member of parliament.
- Police officers in Munali were alleged to have tied Aliyele Sakala to a grille for three days in March and beat him until he fainted, after he failed to pay a debt. He reportedly suffered long-term paralysis as a result.
In May, President Mwanawasa commuted the death sentences on 15 prisoners convicted in separate cases of murder and armed robbery. In February he commuted the death sentences on 44 soldiers convicted of involvement in a failed coup in 1997, and repeated assurances that there would be no executions during his presidency. In June, one of the 44, Jack Chiti, was released from prison on health grounds.