The Human Right Commission (HRC) has called on government to immediately establish an inquest to identify the culprits responsible for the killing of a state prosecutor and a UPND sympathiser in Lusaka yesterday.
And the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) says it has not seen any justification for the use of live ammunition on unarmed civilians.
Meanwhile, several foreign diplomats accredited to Zambia including UK High Commissioner Nicolas Woolley and German Ambassador Anne Wagner-Mitchell have expressed shock at the shootings.
On Wednesday, police shot dead State prosecutor Nsama Nsama and a UPND sympathiser Joseph Kaunda as they tried to disperse UPND cadres who had turned up to offer solidarity to their leader, Hakainde Hichilema.
But in a statement, Wednesday, HRC spokesperson Mweelwa Muleya said the commission witnessed and was shocked at the indiscriminate use of live ammunition by the police.
“The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) calls upon the Government to immediately establish an inquest to establish the identity of individuals responsible for shooting to death of a State Prosecutor, identified as Mr. Nsama Nsama, and a suspected UPND sympathiser identified as Joseph Kaunda, in Lusaka on 23rd December 2020. Preliminary investigations by the Commission have established that Mr. Nsama, a State Advocate working for the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) and Joseph Kaunda, a Kafue based UPND sympathiser were shot dead, about 10 metres from each other near the NPA offices. Mr. Nsama had just gone across his office to get a snack from a restaurant which is about 20 metres away from NPA head offices while Mr. Kaunda was walking on the road between the said restaurant and the NPA Offices when they were gunned down. This unfortunate incident happened when the police officers were dispersing people who had gone to offer solidarity to the United Party for National Development (UPND) President, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, who was summoned to Police Force Headquarters. The Commission witnessed the police firing tear smoke canisters at a peaceful crowd at the High Court Grounds and some officers physically chasing individuals around Cabinet Office area,” stated Muleya.
“Some workers in offices near Cabinet Office, including officers of the Human Rights Commission, were choked by the tear smoke in their offices. Gunshot sounds were heard blasting as the police officers dispersed the crowds and some security offices found at the scene intimated to the Commission that the sound was that of live bullets. The Commission is shocked at the indiscriminate use of live ammunition by the police in an area surrounded by public offices such as Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Justice, the British High Commission, and others including private places such as the Restaurant where the majority of workers around go to eat from. The unnecessary display of warfare tactics and use of excessive force by the police in the recent past has been unprecedented. The killing of Mr. Nsama is a classic example of the unreasonableness, unjustifiable, unnecessary, reckless and arbitrary use of excessive force by the Zambia Police Service. As a result, lives continue being lost through extra-judicial killings, which is unlawful killing of an individual by the state. Further, the Police Command has an obligation to avail suspected police officers so that they are subjected to the due process of the law.”
And in a separate statement LAZ honorary secretary Peter Chilembo stated that the association had already begun engaging stakeholders to ensure that the culprits responsible for the death of two people were prosecuted.
“The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the killing of two innocent citizens by police officers who used live ammunition to disperse crowds gathered to express support for the leader of the opposition United Party for National Development who was summoned by the police. It is a sad day when the very institution entrusted to safeguard life is in the forefront of taking it. LAZ has not seen any justification for the use of live ammunition against members of the public who were unarmed. Sadly, it has now become fashionable in the country for police officers to use live ammunition to control public gatherings, resulting in killings, the last having been the killing of Frank Mugala, a grade nine pupil of Chazanga Primary School mistakenly shot dead on 13th February, 2020 as police officers were trying to aim at protesters,” he said. And most unfortunately, the perpetrators neither take responsibility nor are they brought to account for this reckless affront to the right to life guaranteed under the Constitution,” stated Chilembo.
“The use of live ammunition also goes against international tenets for effective policing and crowd control. It must be appreciated that the right to assemble is guaranteed under the constitution, and that the police have an obligation to ensure that it is done without endangering other people’s liberties and properties. LAZ calls on the police command to inspire public confidence by ensuring that police officers are not used to aggravate a negatively charged political atmosphere as the country draws closer to elections. LAZ calls for a full investigation to ascertain not only who it was that issued the command for live ammunition to be used but also to determine at which officer’s hands the victims met their death. LAZ has already begun to engage the relevant stakeholders to ensure that responsible officers are prosecuted before the courts of law for the murder of innocent citizens. Further, LAZ will determine what other action lawfully open to it in order for LAZ to play its part in arresting a clear affront and assault on the Rule of Law and the right to life.”
Meanwhile, diplomats took to social media to express their shock.
High Commissioner Woolley posted “Shocked by today’s shootings in Lusaka. Vital that police investigation establishes why at least two citizens have lost their lives and that all efforts are focused on de-escalating tensions and restoring calm.”
While Ambassador Wagner-Mitchell tweeted: “I was about to tweet a joyful Christmas message, when today’s events completely changed the course of this afternoon. Still deeply shocked and saddened. I am earnestly wishing Zambia a peaceful Christmas. I will continue to follow developments closely.”
And the US Embassy posted: “The U.S. Embassy is deeply saddened and concerned about the deaths of two civilians today following a demonstration of supporters of the United Party for National Development. We express condolences to the families of those who were killed, including a state prosecutor and a party supporter, and we urge a full investigation to bring to justice those responsible for their deaths. We further encourage that all Zambians be allowed to peacefully assemble and express their views without violence or interference. We urge a de-escalation of violence and tensions, in order to allow all citizens to peacefully exercise their citizenship rights.”