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Amnesty International Report 1999 - Zambia

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1999 - Zambia, 1 January 1999, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


More than 100 people, including possible prisoners of conscience, were detained in connection with a 1997 coup attempt. They were held in conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; at least one detainee died in custody. Journalists and human rights defenders continued to face imprisonment for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Torture and ill-treatment, shootings and unlawful killings by police were widespread. More than 20 people were sentenced to death and more than 150 remained on death row at the end of the year. No executions were reported.

The state of emergency, which suspended many fundamental rights, was renewed in February for another three months but lifted in mid-March (see Amnesty International Report 1998).

Zambia acceded to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in October, but it did not recognize the competence of the Committee against Torture to receive individual complaints.

In May a donors' consultative group meeting convened by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), pledged US$530 million in aid on condition that the Zambian government initiate further economic reforms and "swift and decisive action on alleged human rights violations".

In September, following demands by a newly formed gay and lesbian organization for formal registration, Vice-President Lieutenant-General Christon Tembo told parliament that homosexuals and homosexual rights activists would be arrested. He also banned the publication of information about "gay activities". Amnesty International would consider anyone imprisoned solely for their homosexuality, or for non-violent advocacy of gay and lesbian rights, a prisoner of conscience.

Further arrests in early 1998 brought the total number of people detained in connection with the 1997 coup attempt to more than 100 (see Amnesty International Report 1998). Those detained included Kenneth Kaunda, former President and leader of the United National Independence Party (UNIP); Moyce Kaulung'ombe, his security chief; Dean Mung'omba, leader of the opposition Zambian Democratic Congress (ZDC); and Princess Nakatindi Wina, Women Affairs Chairperson of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy. Despite High Court rulings in 1997 and in January that some apparently politically motivated detentions were unlawful, presidential detention orders issued under the state of emergency blocked the release of those unlawfully detained.

In April independent observers were granted access to Kenneth Kaunda, who had spent four months under house arrest with strict limitations on communication and access to visitors.

Also in April, 82 suspects detained in connection with the coup attempt were finally charged. In June, 79 defendants pleaded not guilty to treason, which is punishable by death. Kenneth Kaunda and Moyce Kaulung'ombe were released in June after charges of concealing knowledge of treason were withdrawn. In December Dean Mung'omba and Princess Nakatindi Wina were released for lack of evidence.

In March the government's Permanent Human Rights Commission concluded in a report that at least nine of the detainees held in connection with the 1997 coup attempt had been tortured, and identified some 12 police officers as responsible. However, it recommended that the alleged perpetrators not be criminally prosecuted but rather disciplined and retired. In May the government announced that it would establish an impartial inquiry into the allegations of torture and develop a comprehensive human rights training program for law enforcement officials. In August High Court Judge Japhet Banda was appointed to head a commission to investigate the allegations of torture. His appointment meant the investigation was further delayed because he was also the presiding judge at the trial of those charged in connection with the coup attempt, which was set to continue into 1999.

The detainees suffered serious health problems as a result of overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate diet and lack of medical facilities. Their trial was adjourned several times during the year because defendants were too ill to appear. Investigations by the Permanent Human Rights Commission, the Parliamentary Committee on Social Services and the presiding High Court judge all concurred that prison overcrowding and general conditions put prisoners' health and lives at serious risk. One detainee, Private John Nalilungwe Akapelwa, died in June. More than 10 detainees were hospitalized for illnesses including tuberculosis, malaria and chest infections. Some detainees continued to suffer from ill health, including partial blindness and deafness, caused by their torture at the hands of police in 1997. The health of Major Musonda Kangwa, who was tortured in 1997, deteriorated when he was sent back to a prison cell just days after undergoing surgery in March.

Some of those arrested in connection with the coup attempt appeared to be prisoners of conscience. At the end of February Frederick Mwanza, a journalist, and Priscilla Chisala Chimba, a secretary to Dean Mung'omba, were released without being tried after almost four months of detention. In April journalist Dickson Jere was detained briefly in connection with his interview with Kenneth Kaunda shortly before the coup. In June, police detained businessman Rajan Mahtani for 41 days on charges of treason; the charges were withdrawn.

Journalists continued to be threatened with arrest for exercising their right to freedom of expression. In January members of parliament demanded the arrest of Fred M'membe, editor of The Post newspaper, for describing parliament as "useless" in an editorial. In May staff at The Post were acquitted of contravening the State Security Act by publishing details of a cabinet plan to hold a referendum (see Amnesty International Report 1998). At the end of the year Masautso Phiri, former The Post editor, was still being tried for "conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace". He had been arrested in August 1997 at a political rally in Kabwe for photographing police ill-treating opposition party members (see Amnesty International Report 1998). By the end of the year, there were up to 20 cases outstanding in which government-sponsored charges had been brought against journalists.

Opposition politicians and human rights defenders also risked imprisonment for carrying out their legitimate, peaceful activities. In May police arrested ZDC politician Ruth Emelio for allegedly conducting herself in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace. The arrest appeared to be politically motivated. Her trial had not started by the end of the year.

Police also routinely and arbitrarily detained criminal suspects' relatives to force the wanted person to surrender. In August police in Kasama city detained Joyce Musonda, the wife of a civil servant suspected of stealing money. She and her one-and-a-half-year-old child were held for three nights in a police station.

Torture and ill-treatment by police officers remained widespread. There was an increase in the number of police officers prosecuted for torture, but in scores of cases those responsible for torture were not brought to justice. Between June 1997 and May 1998 the Permanent Human Rights Commission received information about 73 cases of torture, ill-treatment and unlawful detention, including 17 deaths apparently at the hands of the police. In June, seven police officers were arrested for allegedly torturing to death Steward Mwantende. A Commission investigation had found that he died from beatings and burns they inflicted. The trial had not begun by the end of the year. In February, police shot and killed Milupi Sitwala and wounded another man during an apparent altercation with a police constable in Limalunga village, near Mongu city in the Western Province. Police responded with indiscriminate beatings when angry villagers vandalized the police station. A dozen people were detained, including Masiye Lowendo and Sinaali Siseho who were allegedly beaten with a spanner, an axe, a metal gear shaft and batons. All 12 were held incommunicado and denied food and medical treatment for four days. By August, one police constable involved was arrested on charges of murder. His trial started in October and was continuing at the end of the year. The allegations of torture were apparently not investigated.

Dozens of bystanders and unarmed criminal suspects were shot and killed by police. In February police reportedly shot and killed Theo Mijoni and Felix and Sydney Chitama as they stood unarmed beside a broken-down vehicle in the capital Lusaka. One officer was charged in September and the trial was continuing at the end of the year. In November police shot and killed eight men suspected of involvement in the murder of former Finance Minister Ronald Penza. Among the victims were Jordan Kapomba, Ackim Mumba, White Daka and Chanda Chayafya, who was tortured and killed by police after being taken into custody. By the end of the year only one officer had been charged with the killings and no commanding officer had been disciplined or charged.

Investigations into apparently unlawful shootings by police were flawed or non-existent. In October the Permanent Human Rights Commission suspended investigations into the August 1997 police shooting that injured Kenneth Kaunda and Rodger Chongwe, Chairman of the Liberal Progressive Front, as they attempted to drive away from a rally in Kabwe city which was broken up by police (see Amnesty International Report 1998).

More than 20 people were sentenced to death, including two police officers, for murder or aggravated robbery. More than 150 prisoners remained on death row at the end of the year. An estimated 73 prisoners had their death sentences confirmed by the Supreme Court of Zambia, while another 79 were awaiting the outcome of their appeals.

In March Amnesty International released a report, Zambia: Misrule of law – human rights in a state of emergency, describing the allegations of torture of those detained in connection with the 1997 coup attempt. It made a series of recommendations, including the suspension of police officers alleged to have been involved in the torture of detainees, pending a thorough, impartial investigation that resulted in those responsible being brought to justice; the condemnation of torture by President Frederick Chiluba and other senior officials; and legal reforms to break what appeared to be a pattern of torture. The organization also called for the powers of the Permanent Human Rights Commission to be strengthened. In May Amnesty International wrote to the authorities, welcoming the government's concern about torture and ill-treatment but stating that more training for police officers was not enough.

In September the organization expressed concern that arrests solely for advocating equal rights for lesbians and gays would be in contravention of international human rights standards.

In October Amnesty International brought a complaint to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on behalf of William Banda, an opposition politican who had been forcibly exiled to Malawi in 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1998).

Throughout the year Amnesty International called on the authorities to drop government-initiated criminal charges against journalists that appeared designed to imprison journalists for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

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