THE Human Rights Commission (HRC) says commission is unable to confirm whether or not former president Edgar Lungu’s barber Shebby Chilekwa was tortured by the police because it was unable to meaningfully engage with the suspect.

And Mwandenga has urged police to respond to allegations of torture because it is not HRC’s mandate to be its mouthpiece on such matters.

In a statement, Monday, HRC chairperson Mudford Mwandenga lamented that the Commission was not able to meaningfully engage with Chilekwa because the meeting took place in the presence of a police officer.

He noted with dismay that police had created an impression that the commission was competent to issue a statement on Chilekwas’s torture allegations.

“The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) has noted with consternation that the Zambia Police Service (Police) has created an impression that the Commission was the competent body to issue a statement on the allegations of torture of Mr Sheeby Chilekwa. This is against the background that the Commission had supposedly been given an opportunity by the Police to visit Mr. Chilekwa in Police detention. The Commission indeed confirms having visited him in Police detention. But the Commission regrets to state that the effort by the Police to enable the Commission visit the suspect was uninspiring as the suspect was met in the presence of a Police officer,” Mwandenga stated.

“Therefore, the Commission was not able to meaningfully engage with the suspect. Further efforts to undertake adequate investigations were not successful because the police officers were not co-operative. In the circumstances, the Commission is not in a position to confirm whether or not the suspect was tortured.”

Mwandenga challenged the police to prove whether or not Chilekwa was tortured.

“In any event, it is not within the mandate of the Commission to be the mouth piece of the Police on the allegations of torture against the suspect. The onus of allaying the allegations of torture of the suspect squarely falls on the Police and not the Commission. The Commission therefore calls on the Police to do the right thing and prove whether or not the suspect had been tortured. Torture constitutes gross human rights violation and is a serious crime which the Police must not trivialize as demonstrated by their actions and press statements,” he stated.

Mwandenga said the police service must uphold the bill of rights when carrying out investigations.

“I wish to put it on record that the Commission took an interest in the “Chilekwa case” because it was brought to its attention informally by a concerned person and from the fact that it is now in the public domain. The visitation to the suspect was in keeping with part of the Commission’s Constitutional mandate which enjoins the Commission to ensure that the Bill of Rights is upheld and protected. Incidentally, the Republican Constitution also enjoins the Police to inter alia uphold the Bill of Rights,” stated Mwandenga.

“In this regard, while the Police has the power to investigate crimes and bring perpetrators to book, the Commission urges and reminds the Police that it must in carrying out its investigations generally uphold the Bill of Rights and specifically bear in mind that suspects must not be subjected to torture, or to inhuman or degrading or punishment or other like treatment and that they are entitled to legal representation of their own choice. The Commission notes that the “Chilekwa” debacle is now playing out in the High Court and as such the matter is sub judice. Therefore, the Commission shall not make any further comments on this matter until the matter is concluded in Court. Nonetheless, the Commission will be keenly monitoring the matter as it progresses till its conclusion to ensure that there is no maladministration of justice.”