The Human Rights Commission (HRC) says that despite torture being prohibited under international law, as well as under Article 15 of Zambia’s Bill of Rights, some law enforcement officers are habitually engaged in the cruel vice.
In a statement, issued on the day of Commemorating the International Day of Support of the Victims of Torture Tuesday, Human Rights spokesperson, Mweelwa Muleya, stated that it was extremely saddening that despite torture being absolutely prohibited under international law, some law enforcement officers habitually engaged in the vice.
The HRC called on government to enact a law that criminalises torture so that perpetrators and victims of torture could begin to receive appropriate punishment and remedies through the courts of law.
“The announcement by the government in December 2017, that Cabinet had in principle adopted the Bill criminalising torture in Zambia was a landmark development. It should, however, be stated that the nation and the international community are anxiously looking forward to the government tabling in Parliament the draft Bill criminalising torture in Zambia for enactment into law. The enactment of the law criminalising torture will give legal effect to the constitutional provision against torture and result into the domestication of the UNCAT, thereby, enabling Zambia to meet both her national and international human rights obligation towards taking appropriate and effective measures against acts of torture. It is extremely saddening that despite torture being absolutely prohibited under international law as well as under Article 15 of Zambia’s Bill of Rights, some law enforcement officers habitually engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, including torture, to extract confessions from suspects,” Muleya complained.
“The Commission is hopeful that Zambia will criminalise torture by enacting a law to that effect so that perpetrators and victims of torture will begin to receive appropriate punishment and remedies through the courts of law. It should also be noted that Zambia accepted the recommendation made by nine countries during the Universal Periodic Review process at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in November, 2017, that, Zambia should end all acts of torture and enact a law criminalising torture. It is sad to note that even if Article 15 of Zambia’s Bill of Rights absolutely prohibits torture and other like ill-treatment, this particular constitutional prohibition cannot be invoked in Zambia’s courts of law because there is no national-enabling legislation, which defines torture and prescribes penalties in line with the criminal justice system.”
He urged law enforcers to desist from using the excuse of ‘taking orders’ from superiors to justify acts of torture.
“The Commission wishes to remind law enforcement officers that it is not a defence to argue that one was just following orders from superiors for acts of torture. Torture is a crime against humanity and its absolute prohibition has become part of customary international law. The practices of torturing and humiliating suspects, which sometimes begin at a point of apprehending or arresting a suspect and continue during the course of interrogations at police stations and/or other detention or correction facilities must stop. The Commission will continue to advocate for enactment of the law criminalising torture and for building of capacity of law enforcement officers by training them in modern investigations skills and providing them with modern equipment, tools and facilities to enable them carry out their work without recording acts of torture. Further, the Commission will continue its public outreach activities aimed at promoting behavioural change against acts of torture in order to protect the inherent rights and dignity of individuals,” stated Muleya.