Human Rights Watch welcomes the fact that human rights issues featured prominently during the World Bank Consultative Group meeting discussions on Zambia in Paris (May 12-13).
In it its final communiqué, the delegates at the meeting identified human rights issues as a top priority and "urged swift and decisive action on alleged human rights violations associated with police interrogations of some of the accused [with the October 97 coup attempt]." The head of the Zambian government delegation, Edith Nawakwi, Minister for Finance and Economic Development, stated that "the government wants a clean and good human rights record. We were a leader in the liberation struggles of southern Africa. We want to be a leader on human rights." Nawakwi also said that the government will ratify the U.N. Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."
The delegates also "opened the door to the possibility of further support later in the year linked to additional reforms in the areas of human rights, democracy and governance." Peter Takirambudde, the executive director for Africa at Human Rights Watch welcomed the donor's efforts in Paris. "Human Rights Watch is delighted by how the bilateral donors have acted responsibly by insisting upon good governance and human rights progress by the government prior to full balance of payments resumption." Takirambudde also cautiously welcomed the Zambian governments willingness in Paris to discuss human rights issues. "The governments commitment to ratify the U.N. Convention on Torture is good, but we also want to see meaningful progress in implementing other human rights reforms. Human Rights Watch also believes that the governments promise of an "independent inquiry" into allegations of torture, by a "trial within a trial," is not good enough. It assumes that all victims will on their own initiative raise objections to evidence procured by torture and it does not necessarily bring torturers to justice. We want to see those individuals named by the Permanent Human Rights Commission for torturing detainees suspended pending a full independent investigation. Human Rights Watch will be watching this and other developments closely. I hope that the bilateral donors will too."