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The Need for Human Rights Benchmarks
A Human Rights Watch and Afronet Memorandum
The World Bank's Consultative Group Meeting on Zambia, Lusaka, July 16 to 18

Zambia, once promoted as a model for democracy in Africa, has in recent years been distinguished by a pattern of ongoing human rights abuses targeting the independent media and the political opposition. Human Rights Watch and Afronet continue to document human rights abuses affecting the independent media, political opposition groups and civil society groups. The slow progress of police reform is a further concern and there is little evidence of measures to halt the use of torture by the police. There are genuine grounds to fear that human rights abuse could dramatically increase as Zambia prepares for multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections in 2001. In the absence of strengthened safeguards, such abuses would undermine the chance of there being a level playing field for the electoral contest.

Human Rights Watch and Afronet urge the Consultative Group:

  • to maintain the link between "governance performance" of the Zambian government and balance of payments support to the country;
  • to agree to benchmarks for measuring that "governance performance." These benchmarks should include:

  • Full respect for the rights of all individuals to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. In particular, the recommendations of the Media Reform Committee should be enacted and the government should repeal or amend the provisions in the Penal Code which allow the government to impose direct censorship and create a climate of self-censorship amongst journalists.

  • Introduction of official quarterly performance review meetings between the bilateral donors and the government prior to the next Consultative Group meeting at which NGOs and other interested parties can submit their audits of the government's performance related to its pledges. The holding of quarterly meetings was agreed in principle at the May 1999 Paris meeting but no such meetings took place.
  • Reform of the Public Order Act.
  • Close examination of the findings of the recently completed torture probe by the Commission of Inquiry headed by High Court Judge Japhet Banda. This report should be made public, and national debate on its recommendations should be encouraged.

The Consultative Group Meetings and Human Rights

The international community's efforts to press for improved human rights protection and governance have been of critical importance in defending human rights standards in Zambia. For the past two years, bilateral donors have linked Zambia's aid program to progress in economic reform and governance. The bilateral donors can encourage human rights improvements by maintaining governance and human rights performance benchmarks for the release of Balance of Payment support for 2000/2001.

There is a well tried and successful record of using such performance benchmarks for Zambia. The World Bank postponed its Consultative Group meeting in December 1997 and told the government that it would only be held when the state of emergency was lifted. At the May 1998 Consultative Group meeting in Paris, donors pledged Balance of Payments support but on condition that Zambia adhere to specific benchmarks, including measures reflecting improved respect for human rights. In an unprecedented move for consultative group meetings, the World Bank's final press statements in 1998 and 1999 specifically mentioned human rights concerns.

In May 1999, Zambia's cooperating partners in Paris at the World Bank Consultative Group meeting emphasized the immediate importance of good governance, including the protection of human rights, freedom of the press, fighting corruption, and institutional capacity building. Zambia's external partners disclosed plans to make available at least U.S.$240 million in balance of payment support, as well as an additional U.S. $390 million in project assistance, all to be based on Zambia's satisfactory economic and governance performance. They also agreed that the next Consultative Group meeting would be in Lusaka and that there would be four pre-meetings to assess Zambia's performance.

The Zambian government produced a National Capacity Building Program for Good Governance prior to the May 1999 Paris meeting and promised its bilateral donors that it wanted to improve its rights record. The government promised many reforms, but gave no real sense of its priorities and no convincing demonstration of its commitment to good governance. As if to underscore the government's lack of transparency over this initiative, the good governance document only became public after the meeting.

The credibility of the good governance document was also weakened by the statements of then finance minister Edith Nawakwi, who on her return from the Paris Consultative Group meeting to Lusaka attacked NGOs who had campaigned for improved human rights standards. The government-controlled print media quickly followed her example and criticized the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) and Afronet for campaigning for conditions on the release of balance of payments support.

This was not the last attack. On January 31, 2000 MMD chairperson for information and publicity Vernon Mwaanga warned that Afronet and ZIMT were a danger to democracy and could face deregistration if they continued "their irresponsible conduct."(1) On February 2, 2000, the minister of information and broadcasting services, Newstead Zimba, warned that the government would take "drastic action" against the Zambia Independent Media Association (ZIMA) and Afronet if they did not end their "betrayal" of Zambia. He said "David Simpson of ZIMA and Mwanajiti of Afronet are behaving like a government of their own or shadow cabinet. They have no mandate whatsoever to want to betray the government in a treacherous manner like the one they have engaged in except maybe the mandate from foreign donors who are directly sponsoring them." He continued: "This is a timely warning to ZIMA and Afronet to work with government in promoting democracy, human rights, and development. Anything other than this will be stretching government too far or else drastic action will be taken against them."(2)

The April 1999 good governance document credibility was additionally weakened by the government's efforts later that year, in August 1999, to enact a draconian State Security Bill which would have created conditions amounting to a permanent state of emergency. The bill provided for a suspect to be detained without charge for fourteen days, with the period of detention subject to extension as many times as necessary with the authority of a magistrate. Only after stiff opposition from NGOs and back-bench members of parliament was the bill withdrawn.

Early in May 2000, minister of legal affairs Vincent Malambo called a meeting with donors to report back on progress in implementing the government's National Capacity Building Program for Good Governance. Malambo presented a slightly revised document and also discussed the findings of four consultative meetings held in 1999 with the groups consulted on the National Capacity Building Program.(3) The report of the four consultative meeting has not been widely distributed but makes impressive reading.(4) Many of the fundamental human rights challenges that Zambia faces are recognized. The following are some of the key findings:

  • "need to remove erring officers from office and punish them instead of promoting them;"
  • "need for legal aid representation to all citizens to avoid the possibility of innocent people being incarcerated for crimes they did not commit due to lack of representation in court;"
  • "need to decentralize the office of the Human Rights Commission;"
  • "need to empower the Human Rights Commission so that it can prosecute abuses of Human Rights;"
  • "need for the Human Rights Commission to have powers to review and even overrule on decided cases which are unjust, made by the Judiciary and law enforcement officers;"
  • "need for the translation of international human rights instruments into domestic law;"
  • "need for the Government to adequately consult the people before ratifying international human rights instruments;"

Minister Malambo met on June 19 with a number of NGOs to discuss their participation in the July consultative group meeting. A Steering Committee of twelve NGOs, including Afronet, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, and the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) agreed to draft papers on debt, poverty, economics, governance and, political governance and gender which will be presented at the consultative group meeting. A National Forum of NGOs met in Lusaka on July 10 to agree on the final texts. A pre-consultative group meeting on governance issues will be held on July 16 at which NGOs have been invited to present their findings. The consultative group meeting will be held in Lusaka at the Mulungushi conference center on July 17 and 18.

Human Rights Watch and Afronet in particular want to draw attention to three issues that should be priorities for action over the next year: freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression, and action against torture. We recommend that the bilateral donors closely scrutinize the government's implementation of its promises to deal with these serious and recurring human rights abuses.(5)

Freedom of Assembly and Association

Under Zambia's Public Order Act, any group of citizens wishing to hold a public demonstration must notify the police seven days before the demonstration. However, the police have abused the law and arbitrarily determined when a gathering can or cannot take place. Breaches of the law's provisions on unlawful assembly carry a maximum sentence of seven years.(6) On May 7, 2000, Inspector-General Sailus Ngangula said that police would still continue to arrest people holding processions without permits since disregarding the Public Order Act could create anarchy in Zambia.(7)

Opposition parties, NGOs and other civic interest groups have regularly been denied permission to assemble or had their meetings canceled on public security grounds. The ruling MMD, in contrast, continued to hold meetings, rallies, and pro-government demonstrations without permits.

  • On January 13, 2000 a joint opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), United National Independence Party (UNIP) and Zambia Alliance for Progress (ZAP) demonstration in Ndola, to demand the reinstatement of striking doctors who were dismissed was canceled after police at the last minute revoked its permit. The authorities deployed riot police at Ndola Central Hospital to ensure the rally did not go ahead. Police confiscated a coffin and placards from a small group of supporters that gathered for the rally. Copperbelt police chief Lyson Simwanda reportedly did not explain why the permit had been withdrawn.(8)
  • On January 14, 2000, youths of the ruling party MMD in Ndola staged a solidarity demonstration of President Chiluba during which they called upon him to run for a third term in office and supported the government's dismissal of striking doctors. The youths had no permit and told police that they didn't need one because they were not unruly and police permitted the rally to take place.(9)
  • On January 16, 2000, police in Solwezi arrested and charged opposition UPND leader Anderson Mazoka, Solwezi mayor Logan Shemena, and twenty other senior UPND party officials for allegedly holding a public meeting without a permit. Mazoka was arrested at a fundraising braai [barbecue] at Kalloss Restaurant for addressing the meeting. According to the UPND the arrest was unjustified because police granted UPND Northwestern province chairperson Webster Makondo a permit to hold the braai from 5:00 p.m. until late. According to a press report and the UPND Northwestern police chief Hudson Beenzu maintained that while a permit to hold a braai was given, Mazoka was not allowed to address the gathering.(10)
  • On January 17, 2000, thirty-nine people from various women's NGOs and their supporters were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly. Police harassed the women, almost stripping naked Executive Director Emily Sikazwe of Women for Change and also assaulting Rachel Chiumya, a reporter from Radio Phoenix that witnessed the incident. The women were staging a protest outside police force headquarters in Lusaka against the raping and killing of young girls in Lusaka's Chelston and Avondale areas. The protesters were displaying placards denouncing police inertia when they were apprehended and bundled into trucks. Police at first refused to allow lawyers to be present when they were charging protesters but later relented. Police justified their denial of a permit for the demonstration citing "security reasons."(11) On January 31 the Lusaka Magistrate's court dismissed the case after the state declined to bring charges.(12)
  • On January 28, 2000 the police refused to grant Catholic Zambia Association of Sisterhood permission to demonstrate outside parliament during the budget presentation.(13) On February 4 the semi-official Permanent Human Rights Commission issued a press release voicing its concern over the refusal of the police to issue the Sisterhood a permit for their demonstration to draw attention to the needs of the poor although they had requested one with over two weeks notice.(14)
  • April 26, 2000, armed police officers blocked a demonstration organized by Women for Change against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a meeting of Zambian parliamentarians at Lusaka's Pamodzi Hotel. The police said the demonstration did not have a permit.(15)
  • On April 27, 2000, fifty-five Lusaka resident doctors and twenty-eight opposition UPND members were arrested for conducting an illegal demonstration. The demonstrators who had defied police orders not to proceed without a permit were arrested in four separate locations on Lusaka's Independence Avenue and charged with unlawful assembly.(16)
  • On May 27, 2000, MMD youths staged a demonstration opposing MMD presidential aspirant Ben Mwila. The youths, who were led by Lusaka province youth chairman Steven Bwalya, besieged the office of Lusaka province minister Sonny Mulenga in demanding the immediate firing of Mwila for announcing his presidential ambition. Lusaka Division police commander Bernard Mayonda said police could not act to stop because the demonstators gathered at a bus stop which "is not a public place, so they did not commit any offense." He, however, refused to comment on the fact that the youths had marched down Cairo Road.(17)
  • The opposition UPND claimed that the police refused it permits to hold rallies in Lusitu, Chirundu, Siavonga and Chibombo districts in June(18) and in Shesheke in July.(19)

Freedom of Expression

In 1992, shortly after the MMD's election victory, the Ministry of Information appointed a Media Reform Committee to carry out an audit of Zambian laws affecting press freedom. Twenty-six laws were identified by the committee as inconsistent with freedom of expression. However, no action has been taken since then to implement the recommendations of the committee.(20)

Attacks on freedom of expression by the Zambian authorities have continued since May 1999. The most important are:

  • On March 10 and 11, 1999, six journalists from the Post newspaper were detained by the police for publishing a story headlined "Angola Worries Zambia Army." The story criticized Zambia's military capability and preparedness in the face of a possible military attack from Angola. All the reporters, including editor-in-chief Fred M'membe were later charged with "espionage." Two of the journalists, Lubasi Katundu and Amos Malupenga, were on leave at the time of arrest while Rueben Phiri and Mukalya Nampito were out of the country. Their case was taken before the High Court on April 16, 1999. On November 1, 1999, twelve Post journalists appeared before the High Court in Lusaka on a charge of espionage. All twelve pleaded not guilty to the charge and were at liberty under bail conditions. Since November 1999, there has been a series of adjournments. On May 24 eleven journalists, all who were working for the privately owned Post paper at the time of their arrest appeared in court once again. The case was adjourned to June 19 at the request of the State.(21) The hearings were concluded on June 19 and a verdict is planned for August 4.
  • On November 21, 1999, Alphonsius Hamachila, a reporter for the Monitor (linked to Afronet), was abducted for several hours and assaulted by an MMD by-election candidate and approximately twenty supporters at a rally in Mazabuka central district. The abduction followed a report by Hamachila in the Monitor on alleged financial improprieties by the candidate. Hamachila was assaulted and interrogated for two hours before being released, and was admitted for hospital treatment following the attack.(22) Although this incident was reported to the police, no investigation has taken place.
  • On January 24, 2000, the privately-owned Radio Phoenix announced it was discontinuing a live phone-in program, "Let the People Speak: The Doctor's Strike," following pressure from the Ministry of Information. The program was sponsored by Afronet to provide a forum for striking resident doctors to air their grievances. Following Afronet's public complaints about this incident the program was restarted a few days later but it was prerecorded, edited, and the phone-in was discontinued.(23)
  • On January 4, 2000, Majid Ticklay, a sixty-two year-old Asian and British national, a resident in Zambia for fifty-four years, was deported with one hours notice to Britain following the publication of a letter he had written to the Post newspaper, in which he appealed to Zambians of Asian origin to play a more active role in politics.(24) The minister of home affairs, Peter Machumgwa, announced in a press statement that Ticklay had been deported for "sowing messages designed to promote ethnic divisions, hatred, racial discrimination, and anarchy among the people of the country." He was deported under the Immigration and Deportation Act (Chapter 103 of the Laws of Zambia) which gives him discretionary powers to deport persons whose presence is deemed "inimical to the public interest."
  • On May 7, information and broadcasting minister Newstead Zimba expressed happiness with Radio Christian Voice for their programming, adding that he was disappointed with certain radio stations that had become "political." When asked by ZIMA to clarify his statement that some radio stations were becoming too political and that he was going to take unspecified action against them, the minister said the license conditions were clearly spelt out and he was presently reviewing a number of files. He refused to explain further.(25)

Action Against Torture

Teddy Nondo continued to serve as deputy director of the Drug Enforcement Commission despite accusations that he tortured suspects in 1997. The Human Rights Commission recommended, in its March 30, 1998 report on allegations of torture of detainees following the 1997 coup attempt, that officers accused of the offense of torture - including Nondo- be retired in the public interest but advised against instituting criminal proceedings. Article 15 of the Zambian Constitution forbids torture. After some foot dragging, the government withdrew the reservations it had entered upon becoming a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on February 19, 1999.

At the May 1999 Consultative Group meeting the Zambian government, was again urged to take swift and decisive action on alleged human rights violations associated with police interrogations and accusations of torture in the aftermath of the October 1997 coup attempt. A Commission of Inquiry headed by High Court Judge Japhet Banda began hearings in late 1999, following Banda's sentencing to death of fifty-nine of those accused in relation to the coup attempt. All those named in the Human Rights Commission torture report denied the charge during hearings. The Commission of Inquiry presented its completed report to President Chiluba in late July but the report's findings have not been made public.

Reports of police torture continue. For example, on July 26, 1999 Makeni police detained and severely tortured Beatrice Nchimunya of John Laing Compound. Nchimunya was suspected of having stolen South African Rand 400 ($40). Records at the University Teaching Hospital, as signed by Dr. S.P. Lungu, indicate "multiple bruises and hematomas on the left and right shoulders, right sub-scapular area, left forearm and right thigh with laceration and left side of face." The doctor concluded that his findings were consistent with allegations that the patient was whipped with a sjambok (whip) by two police officers at Makeni police station.

Although Nchimunya, accompanied by Afronet and Zambia Civic Education Association representatives, subsequently confronted the officers (later identified as Nyimbiri and Mfuzi), who refused to disclose their names saying only that the chief of Criminal Investigations at the station would be able to disclose their names. The chief of Criminal Investigations in turn refused to disclose the names of the two officers without seeking permission from Lusaka Division Commanding Officer, Bernard Mayonda. The names were eventually released, and in July 1999 police officers Nyimbiri and Mfuzi, accused of torturing Nchimunya, were arrested and charged with unlawful wounding.

On September 13, 1999 Afronet sent a query to Bernard Mayonda and Police Public Relations Officer Alex Chilufya, inquiring into progress in the prosecution of the two officers implicated in the Nchimunya case had gone.(26) Police have released no information in this regard to date.

1. Post (Lusaka), February 1, 2000.

2. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, "Press Release," February 2, 2000.

3. Th e substance is mostly the same as the "Good Governance"document presented to donors in April 1999 although there is

some new text. The cover is the same although the original typed date (28 April 1999) has been crossed out and written over

by hand with 14 April 2000.

4. Report of the Consultative Process with the Stakeholders Held on the National Capacity Building Program for Good Governance for

Zambia (Lusaka: Ministry of Legal Affairs, October 8, 1999).

5. See, Human Rights Watch, Memorandum to the Consultative Group Meeting on Zambia (Paris, May 27-28, 1999),

www.hrw.org/press/1999/zambia-memo.htm; "Zambia: No Model for Democracy. Continuing Human Rights

Violations," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, May 1998, vol.10, no.2 (A); Afronet, Zambia: Human Rights Report 1999

(Lusaka: Afronet, 1999).

6. The previous Public Order Act punished participants of illegal demonstrations with a maximum sentence of five years

imprisonment; this was increased in February 1996 to seven years despite a landmark judgment by the Chief Justice in 1996,

that the restrictions on public assembly were repressive, and that the law should be reformed (see, Christine Muundika and

Seven Otfers V The People, 1996).

7. Times of Zambia (Lusaka), May 8, 2000.

8. Times of Zambia (Lusaka), January 14, 2000; Human Rights Watch interview with doctors, Lusaka, May 2000.

9. Ibid; Human Rights interview with police, May 2000.

10. Times of Zambia (Lusaka), January 18, 2000; Interview with UPND publicity and information chairperson Love Mtesa,

Lusaka, May 25, 2000.

11. Times of Zambia (Lusaka), January 18, 2000; Lawyers Nellie Mutti and Sakwiba Sikota, Lusaka, May 24 and 25, 2000.

12. Zambia Daily Mail (Lusaka), February 1, 2000.

13. Post (Lusaka), January 31, 2000.

14. Press Release, "Denial of Permits," HRC/PR/04/2000, February 4, 2000.

15. Human Rights Watch interview with police, May 24, 2000.

16. Ibid.

17. Afronet interviews, Lusaka, July 2000.

18. UPND press statement, "UPND Conemns [sic] MMD government for cancelling UPND rallies," June 17, 2000.

19. UPND press statement, "Denial of Police Permits in Sesheke," July 12, 2000.

20. Article 19, the Media Institute of Southern Africa and the Freedom of Expression Institute, Zambia (Media Law and Practice

in Southern Africa Series, No.7, February 1998).

21. Human Rights Watch was present at this hearing at the High Court and observed the proceedings.

22. Interview with Alphonsius Hamachila, Lusaka, May 24, 2000.

23. Information provided by Ngande Mwanajiti Afronet's Excutive Director, Lusaka, May 24, 2000.

24. Letter from Ticklay to Human Rights Watch, February 2, 2000 and interview, London, June 23, 2000; Post (Lusaka)

December 28, 1999; Copies of deportation papers in Human Rights Watch's possession. Because of this deportation the

Human Rights Commission called on the government to establish an independent Deportation and Immigration Appeals

Tribunal. Interview with chair of Human Rights Commission, Lombe Chibesakunda, London, April 18, 2000. See also, Post

(Lusaka), January 11, 2000. Ticklay's wife, Aisha, wants to join her husband in Britain and is seeking termination benefits

from her employee of twenty years, the state-run ZESCO. However, despite many requests she has received no reply from

management. The use of exile or deportation as a tool to silence critical voices has been used before by the MMD

government. (See, Amnesty International, Zambia. Forcible Exile to Supress Dissent, Afr 63/04/97, November 13, 1997).

25. Information provided by ZIMA; Post (Lusaka), May 12, 2000.

26. Afronet, Zambia: Human Rights Report 1999 (Lusaka: Afronet, 1999) pp.41-42.