THE Human Rights Commission (HRC) says it is concerned with the continued violations of human rights and killing of people suspected of being behind the alleged ritual killings and gassing incidents.
And the Commission has called for firm action to be taken by the Zambia Police Service and other State security agencies against individuals who disrupted the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) public discussion forum at Intercontinental Hotel.
In a statement, Thursday, HRC chairperson Mudford Mwandenga stated that the Commission was concerned at the continued loss of lives in the wake of riots and gassing incidents.
“The Human Rights Commission wishes to express its grave concern at the continuing reports of gassing activities and the killing of people suspected of being behind the alleged ritual killings and gassing incidents. Since reports of suspected ritual killings and gassing activities emerged, there has been a wide range of human rights violations and abuses, which have adversely impacted on the right to life, the right to privacy, the right to property, freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment and freedom of movement, among others,” Mwandenga stated.
“Unconfirmed reports indicate that a number of lives have been lost at the hands of law enforcement officers as well as angry members of the public meting out instant mob justice against persons suspected of carrying out ritual killings and gassing activities. The Commission is particularly concerned at the continuing arbitrary loss of lives akin to extra-judicial killings involving State agents, such as the alleged shooting by police officers of a pupil at Chazanga Primary School and the alleged shooting of a member of a Neighbourhood Watch by officers of the Zambia Army in Mufulira.”
Mwandenga added that the continued arbitrary loss of life, whether at the hands of law enforcement officers or members of the public, constituted a gross violation of the right to life.
“The Commission is equally disturbed by some unverified reports of unlawful killing of persons perceived to be involved in ritual killings and gassing incidents that have been reported in some parts of the country. The Commission is deeply saddened by reports of barbaric acts by some members of the public who dragged a patient out of a hospital bed at Mazabuka General Hospital and later set him ablaze on suspicion that he was linked to gassing activities. There have been similar incidences reported in other parts of the country where innocent lives have been lost at the hands of members of the public who resort to beating, stoning and burning people alleged to be behind the ritual killings and gassing activities,” Mwandenga added.
“The Commission wishes to advise that the fundamental right to life is protected under Article 12 of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the laws of Zambia and no one may be arbitrarily deprived of his or her right to life. The right to life may be curtailed only under very strict and specific grounds permitted by the law, which include the execution of a death sentence. Therefore, the continuing arbitrary loss of life, whether at the hands of law enforcement officers or members of the public, constitutes a gross violation of the right to life.”
He said the Commission was also concerned at the continued unlawful acts by citizens in blocking roads and harassing innocent members of the public.
“Further, the Commission is concerned at the continuing unlawful acts by members of the public, who have resorted to blocking roads and harassing innocent members of the public as a way of expressing their anger and frustration at the alleged failure by the law enforcement officers to effectively deal with the prevailing insecurity in the country. The Commission strongly condemns the unlawful acts of blocking roads by angry mobs, such as what happened recently on Mufumbwe-Chavuma and the Mazabuka-Lusaka roads, where motorists were being stopped and searched on suspicion of carrying materials allegedly used in gassing activities. Such lawlessness and criminality are totally unacceptable and must not be allowed to continue,” he said.
“While the Commission encourages the communities to be on high alert and work closely with the police in bringing to an end the prevailing insecurity and distressing situation in the country, it does not condone individuals taking the law into their own hands and abusing human rights. Those carrying out unlawful acts and abusing human rights on the pretext of taking measures to respond to the atrocious acts of gassing households or suspected ritual killings should know that they would be held criminally responsible if and when they are arrested.”
He urged the police to ensure that those arrested were accorded their right of presumption of innocence and fair trail within a reasonable time.
“The Commission commends the joint efforts of the police and other State agencies and security wings aimed at putting to an end the gassing activities. It is the hope of the Commission that the law enforcement agencies will move quickly to restore order and the rule of law in the country by taking all necessary measures to ensure that life and property are protected, while people are allowed to freely exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms. The Commission also calls upon the police to conduct prompt and thorough investigations into the reported cases of arbitrary loss of life and property in order to ensure that perpetrators, be it law enforcement officers or members of the public, are identified, arrested and subjected to the due process of the law,” he said.
“In the same vein, the Commission urges the police to ensure that persons who have been detained in connection with the gassing incidents are dealt with in accordance with Article 18 of the Constitution, which, among other things, guarantees the presumption of innocence and fair trial within a reasonable time.”
And Mwandenga called on police to firmly deal with the perpetrators who disrupted the LAZ debate.
“The Commission also wishes to strongly condemn the disruption of the Public Discussion on Bill No. 10 organised by the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) at Intercontinental Hotel on February 17, 2020. And in this regard the Commission calls for firm action to be taken by the Zambia Police and other State security agencies against individuals who disrupted the LAZ public discussion at Intercontinental Hotel. The Commission believes that it is within the competence of the Zambia Police to carry out thorough investigations into the uncalled for disruption of a discussion that was well intended,” stated Mwandenga.
“The Commission understands that several people were attacked, including those who were fleeing for their safety, and were injured whilst their property was being snatched. The violent actions by the political cadres demonstrate impunity of the highest level and undermine the rule of law. And as it is certain that the public discussion was disrupted by political cadres, the commissions calls upon all leaders of the political parties to restrain their cadres from engaging in acts that are in conflict with the enjoyment of rights and freedoms of the members of the public to discuss matters of public interest.”