Human rights violations by the police remained common. Independent journalists were harassed and arrested. Opposition politicians were detained. No death sentences were carried out. In November, President Mwanawasa commuted 12 death sentences to life imprisonment.


The Constitutional Review Commission reported in June. If implemented, its recommendations would strengthen freedom of expression by empowering parliament, reducing presidential powers, and introducing a Bill of Rights. Its recommendation that the new Constitution be adopted by a Constituent Assembly – a demand of civil society organizations – was rejected by President Mwanawasa. The President also opposed popular demands that the new Constitution be implemented before elections due in December 2006. Peaceful nationwide demonstrations over these demands took place in November.

In February, the Supreme Court dismissed a case brought by opposition politicians challenging the results of the 2001 elections.

A corruption case against former President Frederick Chiluba dragged on without resolution. In September, agreement was reached for a UK court to sit in Lusaka to hear charges against the former President. This was seen as a de facto recognition of the Zambian legal system's failure to deliver prompt and effective justice.

Legislation was tabled to create 60 paralegal posts across the country, which would strengthen popular access to legal advice. The Legal Aid Board had been effectively inoperative since its establishment in 2000 due to a lack of funds.

Threats to freedom of expression

Opposition party officials were arrested and denied equal access to state-controlled media. Independent journalists were harassed and arrested.

  • On 24 July, opposition leader Michael Sata was arrested and charged with sedition and espionage after supporting striking mineworkers. The Minister of Mines stated publicly that Michael Sata was a "terrorist" who sought to make Zambia ungovernable. Michael Sata was released on 8 August. By the end of the year he had not been tried. The Chief of Police, Inspector General Zunga Siakalima, was dismissed by the President for initially refusing to arrest Michael Sata.
  • In June Fred M'membe, editor of the independent newspaper The Post, was questioned by police about a series of editorials critical of the President which appeared in The Post. In November Fred M'membe was arrested for allegedly defaming the President, the charge relating to another editorial in the newspaper. He was released on bail after a few hours in custody. The case remained pending at the end of the year.

Violence against women

Sexual violence against women continued to be a major cause of HIV/AIDS. Widespread poverty continued to force many women into economically dependent sexual relations. The belief that HIV can be cured by sex with a virgin persisted, contributing to a high incidence of rape of girls.

In January, President Mwanawasa declared that new legislation would incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women into Zambian law. However, no such legislation had been introduced by the end of 2005.

A Bill to amend the Penal Code, including by widening the scope of what the law considers a sexual offence and increasing the severity of punishments for sexual offences, received its second reading in December.

Abuses by police

Torture of suspects in police custody and excessive use of force by police continued. Low-paid police officers regularly detained people in order to recover debts owed by them to third parties.

  • In June, police in Livingstone beat Catherine Mubiana for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of her brother. No one was charged or disciplined in connection with the assault.
  • In September, Kennedy Zulu died in police custody in Lusaka after he was arrested in connection with a theft at his workplace. Relatives believed that police were paid by his employer to torture him so he would reveal the whereabouts of the stolen goods. A post mortem established that death was a consequence of injuries sustained during a beating with a blunt object. Police promised an inquest into the death, but this had not happened by the end of the year.

This 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.