The Human Rights Commission says it is excited to hear Minister of Justice Given Lubinda’s commitment that government will facilitate the amendment and enactment of the Public Order Act by the end of this year.

In a statement yesterday, Human Rights Commission spokesperson Mweelwa Muleya said the amendment of the Public Order Act was long overdue as it was one of the outstanding pieces of laws that had been used more to violate civil and political rights.

“It is a settled argument, both nationally and internationally, that the Public Order Act has, since colonial times as well as during both the One Party and the current multi-party systems of government, been mostly abused to suppress the right to freedom of assembly and expression of divergent and dissenting views and opinions. The expressed commitment by the government through the minister of justice is therefore encouraging and must be supported by all stakeholders to ensure its fulfilment. The statement by the Minister is also in line with the government’s commitment and obligation to improving the rule of law, human rights and constitutionalism,” he said.

“It is also in line with the government’s commitment during Zambia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November 2017 in Geneva to improve the human rights situation in Zambia. Therefore, the statement by the minister is an expression of commitment to implement one of the 183 UPR recommendations which were made by UN Member States to Zambia aimed at improving her human rights and governance record.”

He pledged the Commission’s continued support to the government in order to achieve the human rights agenda.

“The Commission has consistently made submissions on the review of the Public Order Act to government as part of its role of providing advice to the government on meetings its human rights obligations. We will therefore continue supporting and monitoring the process of reviewing the Public Order Act in order to enhance the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of assembly and expression as enshrined under the Bill of Rights and various regional and international human rights instruments. The Commission is aware that the government has in the past made several public statements of commitment to amend the Public Order Act,” Muleya recalled.

“For instance, on 10th April 2016 when he appeared on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview Programme, then Home Affairs Minister Davies Mwila indicated that the Government was going to table the Amendment Bill to the Public Order Act during the session of Parliament which was opening on 12th April 2016. Similarly, Honourabl. Ludinda had assured various stakeholders, who included diplomats accredited to Zambia, during the UPR debriefing and commemoration of the International Human Rights Day at Southern Sun Hotel in Lusaka on 11th December 2017 that the Public Order Act was going to be tabled during the February to March 2018 Session of Parliament.”

Muleya hopped that the government would move away from making commitments and focus on actual implementation.

“The Commission is however confident that the government will this time around break with the past record of unfulfilled commitments towards reviewing the Public Order Act. Therefore, the Commission is looking forward to invitation of various stakeholders by June 2018, as indicated by Honourable Lubinda, to discuss the amendment of the Public Order Act in order to take broader interests of key stakeholders,” said Muleya.

“It is the Commission’s considered view that a transparent and negotiated legislative process will build confidence of all stakeholders and demonstrate good-faith efforts of the government to once and for all democratically reform the Public Order Act, which was enacted by the colonialists in 1953, mainly to stifle the struggle for independence and freedom.”

The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambia [amendment] Act Number 2 of 2016 to ensure that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted.