Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state and government: Levy Mwanawasa
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: ratified

Widespread human rights violations by the police continued. State harassment and intimidation of those perceived to be critical of the government, including independent journalists, persisted. At least 25 people were sentenced to death; there were no executions.


Presidential, parliamentary and local elections in December 2001, which observers reported were not fair, were followed by protests during which the police reportedly arrested 34 demonstrators; they were released uncharged shortly after. Three opposition parties – United Party for National Development (UPND), Forum for Democracy and Development and the Heritage Party – filed presidential petitions with the Supreme Court in January alleging that President Mwanawasa's election was the result of vote rigging and corruption and asking that the election results be nullified. At the end of 2002 the petition was still pending.

Drought, floods and poor harvests resulted in severe food shortages for approximately three million Zambians.


The police used excessive force to disperse political gatherings deemed to be illegal, seriously injuring unarmed demonstrators in the process. Excessive force was also used when arresting suspects; several people were injured and some reportedly died as a result. Suspects were regularly detained beyond the 24-hour legal limit. Torture and ill-treatment of criminal suspects during interrogation were routine. Relatives, often women and children, of suspects were illegally detained by police in order to put pressure on suspects to give themselves up; some were detained for more than a month. Overcrowding and food shortages contributed to poor prison conditions. The number of deaths among suspects remanded in custody increased.

  • In February, Alison Phiri died in police custody following his arrest on suspicion of theft. Post-mortem results indicated that he was assaulted and tortured, allegedly by police, while in custody. An inquest into Alison Phiri's death was scheduled for November. No inquest had been held by the end of the year.
Freedom of expression and assembly

The police and ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy supporters continued to harass people perceived to be critical of the government, including independent journalists. The police used the Public Order Act to arbitrarily deny opposition parties and non-governmental organizations permission to hold public demonstrations.

In October local media organizations and opposition Members of Parliament pushed for amendments to existing media legislation in order to increase media freedom. However, the amendments were blocked by Parliament in November. The government's version of the three amended bills – the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation bill, the Freedom of Information bill and the Independent Broadcasting Authority bill – had all passed a second reading in parliament by the end of the year.
  • The editor of the Monitor newspaper, Arthur Simuchoba, and journalist Chali Nondo were charged with contempt of court in September following an article which alleged that President Mwanawasa had increased the salaries of Supreme Court judges "to soften the judiciary ahead of the Presidential petition hearing." The Supreme Court dismissed the application in November.
  • Following orders by President Mwanawasa, UPND MP Vitalis Mooya was arrested in October on charges of making false statements aimed at causing public alarm, for publicly warning that people in southern Zambia were dying of hunger as a result of food shortages. The Director of Public Prosecutions ordered his release the same month and all charges against him were dropped.

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