The US embassy in Zambia has released its 2012 report on Zambia’s Human Rights record and says serious human rights abuses and violations were committed by Lusaka last year during the leadership of President Michael Sata, and the Patriotic Front.
The report reveals serious abuses perpetrated by state security forces, including unlawful killings, torture, and beatings, life- threatening prison conditions and restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, and association.
It states that there was serious and rampant human rights problem which included arbitrary arrests, prolonged pretrial detention, arbitrary interference with privacy, government corruption, violence and discrimination against women, child abuse, trafficking in persons, and discrimination against persons with disabilities and discrimination based on sexual orientation, restrictions on labor rights, forced labour, and child labour.
“The government generally did not take steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, and impunity remained a problem. There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Senior officials encouraged police officers to use their weapons when apprehending suspects, despite a government directive that restricted the use of firearms by officers and a government pledge to retrain police on the use of force,” the report says.
The report also reveals that prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to outbreaks of disease, food and potable water shortages, gross overcrowding, and poor sanitation and medical care, adding that delays in court proceedings caused by an inefficient judiciary contributed to the holding of large numbers of pretrial detainees for extended periods.
It further says that on August 13, police detained and then released on bail opposition political leader Hakainde Hichilema for allegedly “uttering words likely to cause public fear and alarm, restricting freedom of expression as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
On December 16, police arrested and detained opposition political leader Nevers Mumba along with four other senior members of his party and erroneously charged them with unlawful assembly for holding a public meeting without a police permit.
. While the law requires seven days’ notification to police prior to holding a public gathering, it does not require a police permit. Mumba was released on bail but rearrested on December 26 and charged with “conduct likely to cause breach of peace” after he publicly alleged that the ruling party used bribery to destabilize the opposition.”
The report questions the level of freedom of Press, where the two most widely circulated newspapers and the only television station with national coverage were government-run.
On May 16, the president sued opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and the independent newspaper Daily Nation for defamation this was after Mr. Hichilema and the newspaper alleged that the president awarded a contract to renovate State House to a company owned by Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda without following proper tender procedures.”
The report also notes that most widely circulated private newspaper was owned by a presidential ally while opposition political parties and civil society organizations complained that the three main newspapers did not report objectively.
On September 4, the government threatened to close the University of Zambia’s radio station after it broadcasted a program featuring Richard Kapita, opposition UPND vice president.
“In October the government attempted to deregister the blog Zambian Watchdog but was unsuccessful because the blog was hosted abroad and therefore outside government control. There were cases of police violently dispersing protesters. For example, on June 7, police beat 44 peaceful UPND protesters.