In a statement issued in commemoration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture which falls today, June 26, HRC spokesperson Mwelwa Muleya stated that there must be law to criminalise torture.
“As the International Community Commemorates the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture today which falls every year on 26th June, the Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) is calling for total elimination of acts of torture and enactment of a law criminalizing torture in Zambia.
The Commission is extremely concerned at the continued acts of torture which have in some cases resulted into permanent disabilities and death of suspects at the hands of law enforcement officers, particularly at the points of arrest and interrogation,” Mr Muleya stated.
“For instance, the Commission received and investigated a total of 27 cases of alleged torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in 2019. This year the Commission has so far received and is investigating more than 10 cases of alleged torture, mainly at the hands of the Zambia Police Service. Some cases constituted aggravated torture and resulted in the death of victims and the Commission will be releasing the details of final investigations and recommended action against the perpetrators and redress of the victims or the estate of the deceased as the case maybe.”
He stated that torture is universally absolutely prohibited and there is need for Zambia to take practical steps towards its total eradication.
“Specifically, Zambia must enact an enabling law that will give legal effect to Article 15 of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia. It is a source of grave concern that even if the Constitution of Zambia totally prohibits torture and other forms of ill-treatment, there is no piece of legislation or law that defines torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and provides penalties for such acts as required by the Constitution,” Mr Muleya stated.
“Article 18 (8) of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia, which is part of the Bill of Rights, provides that, ‘No person shall be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty is prescribed in a written law’. This lacuna in the criminalization of torture in Zambia has undermined effective means of fighting acts of torture as the courts of law can only rely on penalties under laws dealing with assault as provided for under sections 247 and 248 of the Penal Code Act, Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia, which are by far inadequate for grave acts of torture.”