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03 March 2023
The Human Rights Committee this morning concluded its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Zambia on how it implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with Committee Experts commending the abolition of the death penalty and measures to improve prison conditions, while raising issues concerning violence against women and girls.
Committee Experts commended the State party on abolishing the death penalty. Had death sentences in military courts also been commuted to life sentences? Measures taken to prevent overcrowding in prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic were another positive development. Would they be permanent?
Experts said efforts to curb violence against women, such as one-stop centres, and the adoption of the anti-gender-based violence act were appreciated. However, there had been a 62 per cent increase in gender-based violence cases reported in 2022 versus 2021, and many victims were girls who were victims of defilement. What measures were taken to ensure access for victims to the reporting mechanism? Was there a timeline to operationalise the Gender Equity and Equality Act?
Thandiwe Daka-Oteng, Permanent Secretary for Administration in the Ministry of Justice, and head of the delegation said in opening remarks that Zambia recognized that there was an urgent need to draft corresponding legislation to the instruments to which the country was party, as well as to support victims of human rights violations, but progress had been made. A constitutional review process was underway and consultations for it included civil society organizations.
Ms. Daka-Oteng said that in 2022, Zambia abolished the death penalty and in February of this year, the President commuted 390 death sentences to life imprisonment. The delegation added that the President had commuted all death sentences to life sentences.
Measures to prevent overcrowding could be continued through creation of more correctional facilities, including open air farms, the delegation said. The issue was being addressed by Zambian Correctional Services and the judiciary. Often cases under appeal were afforded priority to be reviewed with view of release to prevent overcrowding.
The delegation noted that statistics were not available on reports of violence against women, but incidences had not increased. A hotline existed to address such issues and upon reporting, police would become involved. Defilement of a child carried a mandatory term of not less than 15 years imprisonment and other appropriate punishments as deterrents.
Ms. Daka-Oteng, in concluding remarks, thanked the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for the opportunity to introspect on the Government and human rights. The delegation had considered the two-day dialogue as an opportunity to further improve implementation of the Covenant. Challenges were not a cause of despair but occasions for improvement. She reaffirmed that human rights remained a priority for the Government.
Tania María Abdo Rocholl, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for the truly constructive dialogue. The willingness of the delegation to cooperate provided for more occasions for understanding all issues. Issued addressed included the mechanism for reporting and follow up, capital punishment, gender equality, violence against women, the excessive use of force and freedom of expression.
The delegation of Zambia was made up of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Lands, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Department of Immigration, the Zambia Police Service, the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, the Zambia Law Development Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees and Zambia Correctional Services.
During the meeting, Kobauyah Tchamdja Kpatcha was elected as the third Vice-Chair of the Committee and Farid Ahmadov was elected as the Committee Rapporteur.
The Human Rights Committee’s one hundred and thirty-seventh session is being held from 27 February to 24 March. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m., Friday March 3 to begin its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Peru (CCPR/C/PER/6).
The Committee has before it the fourth periodic report of Zambia (CCPR/C/ZMB/4).
THANDIWE DAKA-OTENG, Permanent Secretary for Administration in the Ministry of Justice, and head of the delegation, said that the Zambian Government had a duty to ensure that human rights were respected and promoted. The President, in an address to Parliament, underscored his administration’s commitment to upholding human rights, the rule of law, and the protection of people and private property. Zambia recognized that there was an urgent need to draft corresponding legislation to the instruments to which the country was party, as well as to support victims of human rights violations, but progress had been made. A constitutional review process was underway and consultations for it included civil society organizations, whose recommendations had been taken into account to organise the process. The final step would be consideration of amendments to the Bill of Rights. The Human Rights Commission Act of 1996 was currently undergoing review and a draft bill to strengthen the capacity of the Human Rights Commission to carry out its mandate had been submitted to the Ministry of Justice.
In 2022, Zambia abolished the death penalty and in February of this year, the President commuted 390 death sentences to life imprisonment. Further, freedom of speech had been expanded through the repeal of section 69 of the Penal Code, which criminalized defamation of the President. Furthermore, Zambia had started the process of repealing the oft-discussed 1995 Public Order Act to enhance freedom of assembly. The review process had been completed and its replacement, the Public Gatherings Bill, had been submitted to the Ministry of Justice. Access to information would be improved through a bill that would also enhance the independence and freedom of journalists. Zambia had sought the views of many civil society organizations in the drafting of this bill. Zambia had made significant improvement in meeting international standards of living conditions for inmates in terms of sanitation, provision of proper bedding and uniforms. More prisons, correctional centres and open-air farms were being constructed to reduce overcrowding in correctional facilities. Legal Aid Desks had also been introduced at courts, police stations and correctional facilities to guarantee easy access to legal services for inmates and suspects, and to reduce long terms of preventive and pre-trial detention.
Zambia was in the process of developing the first ever National Refugee Policy, which promoted refugees’. Moreover, the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees was implementing the Modernisation of Refugee Settlements Approach project to enhance the livelihood of refugees and host communities. The Government had also conducted a verification exercise to collect proper statistics on asylum seekers, refugees and former refugees in the Maheba, Mantapala, Mayukwayukwa and Lusaka Urban settlements. 83 per cent of the total population had been verified. A plan to end statelessness by 2024 was in progress. It would ensure that all children born to refugee parents were provided birth certificates. The Anti-Human Trafficking Act was amended in 2022. The law prohibited trafficking of children and certified victims, and the amendment had established the Anti-Human Trafficking Department to address all anti-human trafficking issues. Zambia was committed to reforming its legislation to ensure the enjoyment and respect of human rights for all.
A Committee Expert noted the strong presence of women in the delegation. Congratulations were also in order for the Government’s approval of the reporting mechanism to better record and implement all recommendations of human rights instruments, including the human rights treaty bodies. What more could be done so that it would function optimally? Were there any recent developments in aligning domestic legislation with the Covenant? Which provisions of it had been applied in the courts and to what extent? How were new laws promulgated or amended to be in line with the Covenant? What steps were taken to follow up on decisions on individual communications such as No. 821/1998 Chongwe v. Zambia; No. 1520/2006, Mwamba v. Zambia and No. 1859/2009, Kamoyo v. Zambia?
The Committee noted with appreciation efforts exerted by the State Party and the Zambia Law Commission to ensure the compatibility between customary law and the provisions of statutory law. What were notable achievements in this regard and what obstacles were encountered in this process, especially with respect to communities’ chiefs and opinion leaders? Had the State party taken any steps to allow for legal and policy measures that discouraged the persistence of customary practices which were highly detrimental to women’s rights? What was the status of Zambia concerning the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the measures taken by the State party to cooperate regionally and internationally to combat corruption?
Another Committee Expert noted a 35 per cent increase in budget for the Zambian Human Rights Commission. In addition to decentralizing the office and opening offices in the ten provinces, what were other ways to improve the Commission’s work? The independence of the Commission was unclear. Was the President’s decree to give it financial independence permanent or temporary? The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) made several recommendations to strengthen independence and effectiveness of the Commission in 2018. Had those recommendations been addressed?
The Zambian Constitution regulated states of emergency and “threatened states of emergency”. It was unclear whether this statute gave the President the power to derogate from the bill of rights. A “threatened state of emergency” was invoked in 2017 due to the fire that gutted the Lusaka city market and there were allegations of excessive force used by law enforcement. Could the delegation address this? Though a state of emergency was not declared during the pandemic, several measures were taken that decreased civic space, including indefinite school closures, restrictions on public gatherings and closure of bars. How were these actions in line with Zambia’s own Constitution?
The Expert commended the abolition of the death penalty in 2022. However, reports were received that there were still 200 people on death row, which was concerning. Further, the Defence Act still permitted the military court to hand down a death sentence. Would further steps be taken to fully abolish the death penalty permanently?
A Committee Expert congratulated the mental health act of 2019 to care for those with mental health issues. Was up-to-date information available on protection against discrimination? The act deprived women of rights in certain cases, such as divorce. Were efforts underway to amend this?
Access to risk-free contraception and information on sexual and reproductive health was available throughout the country. Was there recent information on measures taken to revise legislation on abortion? Did three doctors still have to approve an abortion for it to take place? The requirement that abortion take place in hospitals was prohibitive to women living in rural areas. Were statistics available on back-alley abortions and medical personnel found guilty of performing an abortion? What were their penalties?
A Committee Expert noted with regret that no action had been taken regarding decriminalising consensual same-sex sexual relations. Criminalisation of such relations constituted an infringement of the right to privacy as outlined in the Covenant. Sodomy laws were inherently discriminatory against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Statistics showed that 53 per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people had suffered violence in their lifetimes and over 70 per cent had suffered verbal harassment. Hate speech from high level Zambian officials was alarming, as were reports of arrest and forced anal exams of two men after consensual sex and an intersex individual forced to undress to apply for a job that required a female employee. Could the delegation address this?
Why had the establishment of the Gender Equity and Equality Commission stalled for years? What measures were planned to expedite the operationalisation of the Gender Equity and Equality Act? Was there a timeline? It was concerning that a woman’s right to inherit land did not apply to customary land, which accounted for more than half of the country. Was more detailed information available on obstacles faced by displaced women in securing alternative land? The requirement for all candidates to have a high school education disproportionately affected women. Female candidates were also targeted by political violence, cyber bulling and intimidation. Would the State party consider a quota or gender parity system to remedy the low rate of women’s political representation?
Efforts to curb violence against women, such as one-stop centres, and the adoption of the anti-gender-based violence act were appreciated. However, cases of violence against women had increased, especially following confinement during the pandemic. What measures were taken to ensure access for victims to the reporting mechanism? Could the delegation comment on sexual education materials that encouraged potential victims of sexual violence to avoid dressing provocatively or to “just say no”? Suggestions such as these would prevent victims from reporting violence.
Another Committee Expert requested more information on the use of lethal weapons. How were principles of proportionality and necessity defined? Complaints suggested that law enforcement dispersed demonstrations and public gatherings by force or with lethal arms. Could the State Party provide a copy of the law regarding this issue? Were there more details on killings of protesters committed by law enforcement? Were perpetrators prosecuted and sentences handed down? Were there more details on the investigation into the killing of Vespers Shimuzhila? Why was the investigation headed by a colonel?
The Executive had prepared a bill against torture. When would the bill be enacted into law? Was the definition of torture aligned with the Convention Against Torture? In criminal proceedings, confessions obtained under torture were not valid. As there was no law against torture, how did the State guarantee this? Could the State party give numbers on how many cases of torture been tried and convicted thanks to the reporting mechanism on torture?
The delegation said that steps taken to formally adopt the national mechanism for reporting and follow up included approval of cabinet members. In 2016, a referendum was held to harmonize the bill of rights with the Covenant and it unfortunately had failed. The bill of rights could only be altered through referendum. The judiciary had a school to inform all relevant judicial offices of new laws. The Government had started to slowly compensate Mr. Chongwe.
Research was underway to promote, protect and fulfil inheritance rights. The State party had attempted to reconcile both customary and statutory law. It had created integrity committees and service charters to combat corruption. Institutions had been encouraged to switch to electronic payment to avoid cash transactions. All transactions of the judicial offices were cashless as well. The integrity committee was an independent body that received reports of corruption. Its membership was diverse, with representation from all levels except the Chief Executive Officer. Employees could report other employees in instances of corruption. Violations that constituted corruption were investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission. A major obstacle faced by members was that they were part of the committee in addition to their full-time positions. Members were selected by human resources after they were identified as persons of integrity. Zambia had integrated the United Nations Convention against Corruption into the anti-corruption act of 2012.
The Human Rights Commission was an independent body that was funded by the Government. The Commission was not fully funded because Zambia was a developing country. A steady and consistent increase in financing had occurred during the past five years. Consultations were underway with the Human Rights Commission to bring legislation in line with the Paris Principles and enhance the independence of the judiciary.
There were restrictions on movement during the pandemic but they were compliant with the Constitution. The law stated that under periods of public health issues, restrictions on movement could be imposed.
Statistics were not available on reports of violence against women, but incidences had not increased. A hotline existed to address such issues and upon reporting, police would become involved. Rights were altered because COVID-19 posed a threat to public health. Restricting freedom to assemble and closing schools was appropriate. The State party did not think of these actions as excessive. There were no lockdowns currently in the country.
Zambia would accede to the second Optional Protocol relating to the death penalty. Further details would be communicated as soon as they were available. The President had commuted all death sentences to life sentences. The defence act would be repealed because of the abolition of the death penalty. However, some related legislation was contained within the bill of rights and could only be amended through referendum. It would hopefully be repealed in the next five years. Article 23 would also be reviewed during that period.
Responding to a question about land rights, the delegation said that under customary law, land was not held by an individual. It was held by the community and was protected by that community, for example a family. Measures to protect land holders under customary law existed through the lands tribunal act. Prior to 2010, there was no formal court dealing with customary land law. Following the act, legal jurisdiction had been expanded to hear cases in more courts. In one case, a land-owning certificate was cancelled to allow settlers to occupy the land. For the State party this was positive, but the decision was being appealed. Land could be converted from one ownership to another following proper procedure.
Zambia considered same-sex sex acts as a violation of its values, morals and beliefs as enshrined in its Constitution.
Women’s participation in politics had decreased and this was disappointing for everyone. A bill to address the issue through quotas and positive discrimination measures had failed in the past. The State party wished to see more women in political life. A hotline was put in place for victims of domestic violence during the pandemic. The use of force and firearms was regulated by law. Officers that had used excessive force had been subjected to investigations. Convictions had been secured following a trial in some cases. Proportional force could be used to displace gatherings under the public order act.
An inquest established into the cause of Vespers Shimuzhila’s death had not found the State at fault. The State did compensate her family, however. Illegally obtained evidence through torture was inadmissible in courts. Further, a “trial within a trial” was used to evaluate whether evidence was obtained without torture. A bill prohibiting torture had been submitted to the Ministry of Justice, but a timeline for its ratification was not currently available. The definition of torture within that bill fell within the acceptable definition of torture as defined in international norms. Every female employee was entitled to maternity leave, even four weeks before birth. If the employee had worked for two years prior in that position, she had the right to full pay during maternity leave.
Legislation could not be implemented if consultation was not undertaken with those effected by the legislation. Parliament summoned stakeholders to ask for views on proposed legislation. Some legislation has been rejected due to lack of consultation.
If assault or death of an inmate occurred, an officer could be prosecuted under the Penal Code. In 2019, an officer used excessive force resulting in the death of an inmate. That officer was tried and sentenced for manslaughter.
A Committee Expert asked about the Integrity Committee. How was the integrity of members ensured? How could members exercise both their job and their functions on the committee? Were they compensated for both functions? How were complaints evaluated to ensure that they were not malicious?
Another Committee Expert asked for more information about the complaints mechanism within the department of police complaints. How effective was it? Were convictions handed down?
An Expert noted the delegation’s response on same-sex sexuality. How would the Government address harassment and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons? There had been a 62 per cent increase in gender-based violence cases reported in 2022 versus 2021, and many victims were girls who were victims of defilement. What explained such an increase? How would child defilement be addressed in particular?
Another Committee Expert noted the positive trend that during the COVID-19 pandemic period, there was a standard operating procedure to avoid overcrowding in prisons. Would it continue?
A Committee Expert asked about individuals on death row who sought to challenge the verdict based on new evidence. The Covenant required all measures to be taken to prevent wrongful convictions. What mechanisms were available in Zambia for convicted persons to have their cases reviewed in light of new evidence?
In 2016, there had been a referendum on a bill of rights that had failed. Had any analysis been done explaining why the people of Zambia had rejected the referendum?
The delegation said that the last referendum was conducted during the last general elections in Zambia. The issues relating to the bill of rights were muddled with political issues. The State party intended to hold another referendum well before the general election next time. Also, public education on the bill of rights was not sufficient. In Zambia, every individual was considered equal before the law and any person suffering discrimination had recourse before the law, whether they were homosexual or not. The Gender Equality Commission existed but the previous Government had felt that its mandate could be addressed through other bodies. It was also a funding issue. Consultations were underway to better implement its mandate within the new Government.
The selection process of Integrity Committee members involved a background check to assess members’ honesty and integrity. Members did not receive supplementary income. Complaints submitted to the Integrity Committee underwent investigations to ensure that they were not malicious. The police public competence institution was an oversight institution separate from the police force. Its mandate was to investigate complaints against police officers. From those investigations, it made recommendations for further investigation or to take further actions. Statistics were not currently available on the complaints and follow-ups.
Defilement carried a mandatory term of not less than 15 years of prison. To prevent defilement, Zambia had introduced appropriate punishments as deterrents. Further, a project to develop a framework to enforce a related act was at its end. Measures would be put in place to deter would-be offenders with firm punishments without possibility of mercy or reduced sentences. The Government was also enacting awareness raising campaigns to end customary practices in chiefdoms that involved gender-based violence. The recently enacted Children’s Code Act protected children and criminalized sexual exploitation, prostitution, coercing a child to engage in sexual activity and exposing children to pornography.
The commission act investigated police actions, and submitted provided reports to the Police Commission, to the prosecution’s office and the inspector general to carry out disciplinary measures.
For those who provided illegal abortions, convictions were handed down. One such case in 1987 involved a woman performing an illegal abortion. The woman received an 18-month prison sentences. Abortion was allowed in the case of rape or incest under a penal code amendment. The Ministry of Health came up with guidelines in 2017 on safe abortions, allowing other medical personnel and nurses to perform abortions. Abortion legislation was being further reviewed to make it more accessible, specifically for women in rural areas.
New evidence could be presented in courts in an appeals procedure.
A Committee Expert noted efforts to improve prison conditions, such as the Correctional Service Prison Audit that introduced an automated case-flow management system, Standard Operating Procedures for COVID-19 regulations, and the Correctional Service Health Strategic Plan (2022-2026), however a lack of potable water, disease outbreak, a lack of access to pre-natal healthcare and a lack of separation between juveniles and adults was still concerning. How were bonds and bail conditions being addressed? Would separate juvenile transit centres be created? The prevalence of persons with disabilities in detention suffering mistreatment was also concerning. What measures were in place to prevent this?
How were citizens’ right to privacy protected from police intrusions? Were statistics available on cases, investigations and prosecutions on this matter? The Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act No. 2 of 2021 allowed for arbitrary surveillance of journalists. Would the State party bring this act in line with the Covenant? Efforts to bring elections in line with the Covenant were noted. However, was there more information on regional or district level presence of the Electoral Commission? What measures had been or would be taken to accommodate non-State monitors in providing oversight during the elections? The 2017 judgement of the Constitutional Court in the case of Godfrey Malembeka, which ruled that the electoral law preventing convicted prisoners from voting was unconstitutional, was a milestone. How would the State party further develop voters’ rights? How would voting be facilitated for persons with disabilities?
Another Committee Expert congratulated the State Party on repealing the death penalty and hoped that the abolition would expand to military personnel as well. Torture committed by prison guards was of concern. Had prison guards been sanctioned for attacking those on death row in the past five years? The Committee noted efforts to promote the rights of sexual minority groups. What measures allowed for full expression for those who criticized the Government or who had non-majoritarian opinions? Could the delegation address information that opposition political parties had been refused access to public media and that some broadcasters had been threatened or harassed into not airing such media? The draft Access to Information Act had not been enacted over the past 20 years. What was the status of this Act and would it include measures to protect the freedom of expression for journalists and human rights defenders? How would the Government guarantee that independent media were truly independent?
Another Committee Expert said it was common for the previous regime to prevent opposition leaders from travelling to so-called “no-go” areas to attend a public gathering. Were there updates on the review of the Public Order Act? How would the State party prevent such measures from being applied during the next elections, and only when strictly necessary? Zambia was a self-declared Christian nation, but religious diversity was respected. What measures were in place to ensure this? Reports of intimidation of clergy members to maintain a positive public view of the Government were of concern. Islamic programmes were banned on both television and radio, following a declaration by one religious leader perceiving all non-Christians are lost souls that need to be saved. How would the Government and opinion leaders contribute to combatting hate speech?
What measures were in place to prohibit the use of corporal punishment against children in the home, schools and orphanages? Why had the age of criminal responsibility been raised from eight to 12, and not 14? Could statistics be provided on cases of violations of the Marriages Act, which set the age of marriage at 21, as well as on child marriages deriving from cultural or religious rites? What measures were in place to provide healthcare for children in mining areas who faced improper nutrition and lead poisoning?
Another Committee Expert said that judges were appointed and reviewed by two committees but that the president was involved in the processes. How was the judiciary independent if the President took part in these processes? How were judges appointed? How were judges removed and did an appeals process exist? Did the Judicial Complaints Commission send its recommendations to the President or another authority in the judiciary in the case of removal of judges? Were there alternative measures, such as house arrest or a travel ban, to pre-trial detention? Extended pre-trial detention was concerning. What was the average duration of pre-trial detention in the past five years and what was the maximum pre-trial detention on record? Did those acquitted in pre-trial detention receive compensation for their time deprived of liberty?
Restrictions on rallies against the Government undermined freedom of expression. Could the State party address this? What happened if the seven-day prior notification had not been respected for a political meeting? Were people prosecuted? Did police receive specific training on peaceful demonstrations and their obligations under international standards?
An Expert noted detailed information provided on legislative measures and mechanisms established to prevent trafficking in persons. To what extent had these measures achieved their goal? Reports of trafficking continued. Was statistical data on the number of trafficking victims collected during the reporting period? Was data available on court cases, prosecutions and sentences carried out for those found guilty? What were the sentences? Were victims compensated? What was the content of the new amendment on the Anti-Human Trafficking Bill?
More information was needed on tangible steps taken to protect refugees. Immigration and refugee law seemed to contradict each other and leave asylum seekers vulnerable to arrest. Would steps be taken to harmonize the two? The number of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in detention facilities were growing every day and their conditions conflicted with international human rights standards. What steps would the State party take to remedy this? Further, restrictions on refugees’ freedom of movement and to work were concerning.
The Expert welcomed the repeal of section 69 of the Penal Code pertaining to criticism of the President. However, Chapter 18 of the Penal Code still contained provisions that could be used for charging any person with criminal defamation of the President. Were there plans to repeal this as well?
The delegation said that holding capacity in prisons was 10,650. The Zambia Correctional Service Act integrated the United Nations minimum standard rules for treatment of prisoners. Measures to prevent overcrowding could be continued through creation of more correctional facilities, including open air farms. The Zambian Correctional Services reported to the judiciary on overcrowding and sought ways to limit the phenomenon. Often cases under appeal were afforded priority to be reviewed with view of release as a way to prevent overcrowding. Most prisons were built in the colonial era, but modern facilities would be built to accommodate persons with disabilities. Last year, a meeting was coordinated by the United Nations Children’s Fund to implement the Children’s Code. A five-year plan had been produced which included provisions to separate children from adult prisoners. Almost all correctional services had medical centres in them. Correctional services established running water in most correctional facilities. Inmates with mental disabilities were housed in a specialised institution.
Statistics were not available on complaints lodged on freedom of journalists. The Government awaited the outcome of a court case on the constitutionality of the Cybersecurity Law. The Constitution provided for the decentralisation of the Electoral Commission. Distribution between regions and provinces was an ongoing matter dependent on budgets of different regions. The Electoral Commission invited local and international observers during elections. Political parties were allowed to campaign through brochures, but not in person in prisons. A review was underway to improve voting within correctional facilities. Force was used by a prison guard in a case where an escaped inmate had died. The prison guard was tried and found guilty of manslaughter. Other cases of deaths in custody following the use of excessive force had also found prison guards guilty of murder.
The Government was conducting consultations with stakeholders regarding a human rights defenders bill. After much consultation, the Public Information Bill had been submitted to the Ministry of Justice. It was the intention of the State party to enact it in the June session of Parliament. There had been an overhaul of new members of the independent broadcasting authority to make it objective and impartial. Barring political opponents from “no-go” areas was practised under the previous Government. The Public Gathering Act had recently been submitted to the Ministry of Justice. The Bill should be enacted during this month’s session of Parliament.
The delegation was unaware of reports of destroyed temples or discrimination of students in schools for wearing religious clothing. Although Zambia was a Christian nation, discrimination against other religious was not allowed. A landmark court case protected this right. The age of criminal responsibility was intended to be raised to 14 but, after stakeholders’ interventions, the age was set at 12. This was being reviewed. The President was an advocate of ending child marriage and had reached out to traditional leaders. Priority was given to female and child-headed households and those prone to poverty because child and early marriage was also an effect of poverty.
Judges were recruited first through advertisements in media. Once applications were received, a vetting process was conducted involving the President and finally Parliament. Involving the three branches of power was the right way to select judges. Only the highest qualified candidates would be selected. Judges being removed could appeal such decisions through judicial review. The Judicial Complaints Committee sent complaints to the appointing authority, the President.
The Constitution stipulated that an arrested person should be brought to trial within a reasonable period, which was left undefined. A person charged for murder or armed robbery might take more time, but they would still be brought to trial at the earliest convenience. Compensation was provided for those acquitted through the courts due to malicious prosecution. Only cases involving “exploitation” were considered to be human trafficking offences. Therefore, some persons had been qualified as victims of smuggling and not of trafficking. Data needed to be consolidated for specific numbers because victims from the Horn of African were dealt with by a different agency than others. The refugee act and the immigration act did provide for some inconsistencies. Work was underway to harmonize them through the national refugee policy, which was in process of presentation to the Cabinet.
Since the end of 2021, the number of refugees and asylum seekers had fallen because of better collaboration between departments and the introduction of monitoring reviews. A smartphone application for police officers facilitated the process of verifying documents. Zambia had a settlement approach. All refugees had to stay in designated areas but they were also given mobility passes. Previously passes allotted 30 days, but that amount was increased to 90 recently. Previously, the status of refugees was to be determined within 60 days, but processes had improved and that period had been reduced to 30 days. Settlements had schools and children did not need permits to attend secondary school. Employment permits were required, however. Fees were subsidized so that refugees did not pay the same work permit fees as regular migrants.
The Government was aware of the need to deliver justice in a timely fashion. Camp courts were an idea to complement the justice system and to speed up trials, however the idea was still in its infancy. The review process of the Public Order Act involved many stakeholders. The seven-day notice period for gatherings had been reduced to five. The law provided for penalties for unlawful assembly. Police received human rights training, specifically through a module for new recruits. The Zambian Police Force had signed many memoranda of understanding with organisations and observatories on human rights.
Previously, individuals consenting to be smuggled were prosecuted. The law now treated them as victims of human trafficking. The law prohibiting human trafficking provided for certification of victims and the establishment of a relevant department within the Department of Home Affairs to investigate all matters related to human trafficking and raise awareness on its dangers. The department also collaborated with other stakeholders to promote the needs of victims of human trafficking.
Addressing concerns about Chapter 18 of the Penal Code about defaming the President, the delegation said that a holistic review was underway to address all inconsistencies in such legislation.
A Committee Expert thanked the delegation for their replies. Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 was part of the social conversation. Why was it only raised to 12? Could young women who had given birth at a young age be provided with an education to increase their economic prospects? Did boys who married under legal age return to school?
Another Committee Expert noted reports of serious restrictions on politically motivated meetings and protests against the Government. Did such restrictions exist and, if so, what were they?
An Expert thanked the delegation for the high quality of their replies and requested information about the number of reports submitted to the Human Rights Commission since its establishment in 2016? Regarding the Gender Commission, was there a timeframe to make it operational? Who exactly was tasked with vetting members on the Anti-Corruption Committee and what safeguards were in place to ensure transparency in this process?
Many incarcerated individuals lacked funds to prove their innocence. Did the Government help such persons pursue their claims?
THANDIWE DAKA-OTENG, Permanent Secretary for Administration in the Ministry of Justice head of the delegation, said stakeholder meetings suggested that the age of criminal responsibility set in the Penal Code had to be reconciled with other legislation, in which it was 12. Whether or not a girl was married, girls returned to school after delivering a child and the Government provided support, especially in safe houses. Boys had never been affected by getting married at a young age. They remained in school. A policy discouraged stigma of pregnant girls in schools, with awareness campaigns to introduce the root causes of stigmatisation. Separate schools did not exist.
The Public Gatherings Bill would enhance the freedom of association for all political parties. Consultations were underway as to whether the Gender Equality Commission would be put in place. Members of the Integrity Committee were vetted by all law enforcement agencies, including security services, police services and the Anti-Corruption Commission. Legal assistance was a right enshrined in the Constitution.
THANDIWE DAKA-OTENG, Permanent Secretary for Administration in the Ministry of Justice head of the delegation, thanked the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for the opportunity to introspect on the Government and human rights. The delegation had considered the two-day dialogue as an opportunity to further improve implementation of the Covenant. Challenges were not a cause of despair but occasions for improvement. She reaffirmed that human rights remained a priority for the Government.
TANIA MARÍA ABDO ROCHOLL, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for their cooperation. The process was successful, a truly constructive dialogue. It deserved underscoring and congratulations were in order. The willingness of the delegation to cooperate provided for more occasions for understanding all issues. Issued addressed included the mechanism for reporting and follow up, capital punishment, gender equality, violence against women, the excessive use of force, and freedom of expression.
Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the information media; not an official record.
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