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Human Rights Watch Condemns Ongoing Human Rights Abuses In Zambia

Calls on Donor Countries to Make Rights Protection a Priority by Maintaining Conditionality of Aid

Human Rights Watch today called for Zambia's bilateral and multilateral donors to continue suspending balance of payments support, in light of the Zambian government's continued human rights violations.

Today in Paris, the donors, joined as the World Bank Consultative Group on Zambia, will discuss Zambia's human rights record.
Balance of payments support was suspended by a number of governments in 1996 because of human rights abuses committed by the Zambian government. On May 12-13, the Consultative Group will discuss whether this support should be resumed.

In Zambia -- No Model for Democracy: Continuing Human Rights Violations, a 57-page report released today, Human Rights Watch documents serious abuses by the Zambian government such as police brutality and torture of detainees.

"We are very disappointed in what has happened in Zambia since last June's Consultative Group meeting," said Dr. Peter Takirambudde, the executive director for Africa at Human Rights Watch. "The government made all the right sounds last year, but since then the police have badly beaten up and even tortured opposition supporters. Former president Kenneth Kaunda and opposition leader Rodger Chongwe were injured in August 1997 when police opened fire with live ammunition to disperse an opposition rally and are lucky to be alive."

Human Rights Watch urged the government to undertake an independent public inquiry into the shooting, which the New York-based group has investigated in depth. At an August 23, 1997 rally in Kabwe in central Zambia, ex-president Kaunda and an aide were slightly injured and opposition leader Rodger Chongwe was seriously wounded by shrapnel when a bullet hit their vehicle, according to an independent medical forensic assessment of medical reports commissioned by Human Rights Watch. The expert conclusion, on the basis of the evidence available, was that, as the bullet entered, it sprayed fragments throughout the vehicle. The injuries sustained by the three passengers were consistent with this conclusion.

Photographs of the bullet hole in Kaunda's vehicle, a bullet cartridge found at the scene of the incident, and the bullet reportedly taken from the car were also subjected to ballistic analysis. The finding was that a 762 x 51mm bullet from an assault rifle struck Kaunda's vehicle. The police were carrying weapons with this caliber in Kabwe.

Human Rights Watch has also established that some of the tear gas misused by Zambian police in its operations against the opposition is manufactured by Schermuly Ltd, a British firm.

On October 28 a number of soldiers attempted to stage a coup by seizing the national radio station. A few hours later the government regained control. The following day, a state of emergency was declared and a crackdown on people suspected of being involved in the coup attempt began. A number of opposition politicians were also targeted, including Zambia Democratic Congress (ZDC) leader Dean Mung'omba and ex-president and United National Independence Party (UNIP) leader Kenneth Kaunda, who was detained on December 25. As of May 11, the number of detained was eighty-two.

A number of these detainees were tortured. In early November a number of detainees were reportedly tortured by being put on the kampelwa (or swing). Detainees described the device as a metal rod thrust between two tables, from which they were hung with hands cuffed to the rod and legs bound to it by rope. The police officers reportedly beat them while they hung from the kampelwa. Human Rights Watch received information that at least fourteen of the detainees, including Mung'omba, were tortured or beaten by police while in detention, although the government does not acknowledge this. Human Rights Watch was denied access in late November to the detainees to independently verify the allegations of torture.

The Zambian government has said it wants to hold a 'trial within a trial' for the alleged torturers when the High Court starts its hearing of those supposedly implicated in the October coup. Human Rights Watch condemns such a proposal as insufficient to address these serious allegations of abuse and calls for an independent inquiry.

Takirambudde singled out the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for praise because of its efforts to see an improvement of human rights standards in Zambia. "SADC and especially the governments of Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have played an important role in pushing for rights improvements in Zambia," Takirambudde said. "SADC can play a role in rights protection."

The report "Zambia _ No Model for Democracy: Continuing Human Rights Violations" can be found here.

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