Brutal crackdown on human rights set tone for August election in Zambia

In its report Amnesty International details the immense crackdown on human rights in Zambia, such as freedom of expression, the shut-down of media outlets, peaceful assembly, people being killed by police and the arrest of opponents, including activists.

  • PPI Web Desk

Zambia: Ahead of Zambia’s presidential election on 12 August 2021, Amnesty International released a report “Ruling by fear and repression’ today, raising the alarming issue of human rights violation in Zambia, which exacerbated over the last five years.

In its report Amnesty International details the immense crackdown on human rights in Zambia, such as freedom of expression, the shut-down of media outlets, peaceful assembly, people being killed by police and the arrest of opponents, including activists.

The human rights situation in Zambia worsen radical under President Edga Lungu, Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party, who is leading the nation since 2016. The PF came to power in 2011 with Michael Sata as President who died in office in 2014. Since Lungu became President, Zambia is ruled by a climate of fear and impunity.

Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena stated, “What we have seen in Zambia, especially in the past five years, is an increasingly brutal crackdown on human rights, characterized by brazen attacks on any form of dissent.”

Anybody speaking out against the Government, making allegations of corruption and abuse of its power, face harassment, intimidation and arrest. On the targeted list are particularly leaders of opposition parties, journalists, independent media houses and various activists. Lethal force has been used to stop peaceful protests. Censorship, arbitrary detentions and use of police force have become ‘the new normal’ in the last five years. Public meetings by civil society and political opposition has been restricted.

The law has been abused by authorities to silence and criminalize peaceful dissent, by accusing critics with false charges of sedition, defamation and incitement of public disorder.

A 15-year-old boy in Kapiri Mposhi was arrested on 9 March 2020 for allegedly criticizing the President on Facebook. He is still imprisont waiting for trial.

In 2017 Saviour Chishimba, leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP) was detained for some days and in 2019 Sean Tembo the leader of Patriots for Economic Progress (PEP) was arrested after criticizing the Government.

June 2016  Zambia’s leading newspaper ‘The Post’ was focibly shut down. In April 2020, the broadcasting license for ‘Prime TV’, the leading private television channel in the country was revoked, with no particular reason given by the authorities.

The excessive use of police forces has escalated with fatal consequences for some people. Two unarmed persons were shot dead by the police at an opposition gathering on 22 December 2020. The government gave green light to the police to use ‘any means necessary to maintain law and order’ when handling supporters of the opposition. Zambia’s Human Rights Commission established evidence that the order to shoot came from the Nelson Phiri, the Lusaka Police Commissioner. He was never persecuted for this crime.

In 2018 the police threw a tear gas canister into the room of a student protester who died. A compensation of $25,000USD was given to the students family and no charges were filed against the police officers.

Many more people died at the hands of the police.

One human rights defender told Amnesty International: “There has been such a rise in the levels of impunity that it now seems like a bottomless pit. There does not seem to be any bounds in terms of impunity and violations.”

Deprose Muchena said, “There is evidence of senior government officials fueling the violence in Zambia over the past five years by the police. Anyone suspected to be responsible for human rights violations must be brought to justice in fair trials.”

Amnesty International urges the Government to stop the crackdown on human rights immediately and calls on the Zambian authorities to ensure and protect human rights during the election on 12 August.

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