Zambia is a constitutional republic governed by a democratically elected president and a unicameral national assembly. In August 2016 the country held elections under an amended constitution for president, national assembly seats, and local government, as well as a referendum on an enhanced bill of rights. The incumbent, Patriotic Front (PF) President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, was re-elected by a tight margin. A legal technicality saw the losing main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, unsuccessfully challenge the election results. International and local observers deemed the election as having been credible but cited a number of irregularities. The pre-election and postelection periods were marred by limits on press freedom and political party intolerance resulting in sporadic violence across the country. Although the results ultimately were deemed a credible reflection of votes cast, media coverage, police actions, and legal restrictions heavily favored the ruling party and prevented the election from being genuinely fair.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. In accordance with the constitution, all security and defense service chiefs reported to the president through the minister of defense.
The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary killings which were prosecuted by authorities; excessive use of force by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest; interference with privacy; restrictions on freedoms of the press, speech, and assembly; high-level official corruption; trafficking in persons; and criminalization and arrest of persons engaged in consensual same-sex sexual relationships.
The government selectively applied the law to prosecute or punish individuals who committed abuses and mostly targeted those who opposed the ruling party. In addition impunity remained a problem, as ruling party supporters were either not prosecuted for serious crimes or, if prosecuted, released after serving small fractions of prison sentences.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were reports of extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents during the year. For example, on March 19, police brutally beat to death Mark Chongwa, an air force officer, while in detention for a minor traffic infraction. The Human Rights Commission (HRC) condemned the killing as an arbitrary deprivation of life, prompting the president to order a full inquiry into police actions. The HRC called for disciplinary action against the police officers responsible for the arrest and detention of Chongwa. Four individuals, including two police officers and two inmates, were arrested and charged with manslaughter. The case was referred to the High Court for prosecution; the trial continued at year’s end.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the constitution prohibits subjecting any person to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment, no laws address torture specifically. According to the HRC, police used excessive force–including torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment–to obtain information and confessions when apprehending, interrogating, and detaining criminal suspects. For example, the HRC stated the March 19 death of Mark Chongwa was a result of torture.
The HRC reported allegations of torture in every detention facility it monitored but noted that it was difficult to prosecute perpetrators because no law exists that explicitly prohibits torture or the use of excessive force. Confessions obtained through torture are admissible in court.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
During the year the government changed its prison policy from punitive to correction and rehabilitation of inmates. Nevertheless, physical conditions in prisons and detention centers remained harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, frequent outbreaks of disease, food and potable water shortages, and poor sanitation and medical care.
Physical Conditions: According to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Prisons Care and Counseling Association (PRISCCA), there were 20,916 detainees (of whom 4,000 were awaiting trial at year’s end) in 90 prison facilities with a capacity of 8,550 inmates. PRISCCA noted overcrowding was due to a slow-moving judicial system, outdated laws, and increased incarceration due to higher numbers of persons driven to crime by poverty. Other factors included limitations on judges’ power to impose noncustodial sentencing, a retributive police culture, and poor bail and bonding conditions. Indigent inmates lacked access to costly bail and legal representation through the Law Association of Zambia. Other organizations such as the Legal Aid Board and the National Prosecutions Authority were also difficult for inmates to access due to a lack of representation outside Lusaka.
Other than the March 19 death of Mark Chongwa, no data on or estimates of deaths in jails, pretrial or other detention centers, or prisons attributed to physical conditions or actions of staff members or other authorities were available. While the HRC noted that prison overcrowding and sanitary and other physical conditions fell below international standards, it reported no cases of authorities abusing prisoners and no complaints of abuse filed by inmates. The HRC stated that it had no evidence of political prisoners being treated differently from other prisoners.
The law requires separation of different categories of prisoners, but only female prisoners were held separately. According to the HRC, conditions for female prisoners were modestly better primarily because of less crowded facilities. Juveniles were detained in the same holding cells with adult detainees. Prisons held an undetermined number of children who were born in prison or living in prisons while their mothers served sentences. Incarcerated women who had no alternative for childcare could choose to have their infants and children under age four with them in prison. According to PRISCCA, correctional facilities designated for pretrial detainees included convicted inmates.
Many prisons had deficient medical facilities and meager food supplies. Lack of potable water resulted in serious outbreaks of water- and food-borne diseases, including dysentery and cholera. PRISCCA reported that prison food was inadequate nutritionally. The prison system remained understaffed with only two full-time medical doctors and 84 qualified health-care providers serving the prison population. The incidence of tuberculosis remained very high due to overcrowding, lack of compulsory testing, and prisoner transfers. The supply of tuberculosis medication and other essential drugs was erratic. A failure to remove or quarantine sick inmates resulted in the spread of tuberculosis and other illnesses and the deaths of several prisoners. The HRC and PRISCCA expressed concern at the lack of isolation facilities for the sick and for persons with psychiatric problems. Although prisoners infected with HIV were able to access antiretroviral treatment services within prison health-care facilities, their special dietary needs and that of those on tuberculosis treatment were not met adequately. Prisons also failed to address adequately the needs of persons with disabilities. Inadequate ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and basic and emergency medical care remained problems.
According to the 2013 National Audit of Prisons, female inmates had limited access to health-care services. Gynecological care, cervical cancer screening, prenatal services, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs were nonexistent. Female inmates relied on donations of underwear, sanitary pads, diapers for infants and toddlers, and soap.
Authorities denied prisoners access to condoms because the law criminalizes sodomy and prevailing public opinion weighed against providing condoms. Prison authorities, PRISCCA, and the Medical Association of Zambia advocated for prisoners’ conjugal rights as a way to reduce prison HIV rates. Discriminatory attitudes toward the most at-risk populations (persons in prostitution and men who have sex with men) stifled the development of outreach and prevention services for these groups.
Administration: There were no ombudsmen to promote the interests of inmates. Prisoners and detainees generally could not submit complaints to judicial authorities or request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison monitoring by independent local and international NGOs and religious institutions.
Improvements: During the year the government introduced a prison policy of correction and rehabilitation of inmates. It changed the penal system from a punitive to a correctional model in order to transform prison facilities to concentrate on correction and rehabilitation. It stated that instead of being punished for wrongdoing, offenders required rehabilitation so that they may better contribute to the development of the country when released and reintegrated into society. The August opening of a 300-inmate capacity correctional facility in Monze increased total prison system capacity from 8,250 to 8,550 inmates.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of arrest or detention in court, the HRC reported authorities frequently violated these requirements. It stated there was an increase in arbitrary arrests and unnecessarily prolonged detention in various detention centers, including police stations, during the year. PRISCCA reported there was an increase in suspects arrested and detained following the president’s July 5 declaration of a “threatened” state of emergency in which he invoked emergency powers. The UPND stated police arrested its members on politically motivated pretenses and charged them with nonbailable offenses. The Zambian Police Service (ZPS), however, claimed police arrested these individuals while they committed assault and theft. Many were tried and acquitted due to insufficient evidence.
On April 12, police arrested opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema and five other UPND members and charged them with treason. On April 10, police used tear gas on party officials during a raid on Hichilema’s residence in Lusaka. On April 23, the Roman Catholic bishops of Zambia issued a statement condemning the raid as a “massive, disproportionate” use of force by police. On August 16, the Lusaka High Court released Hichilema and his codefendants when the director of public prosecutions dropped treason charges against him.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The ZPS reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Divided into regular and paramilitary units, the ZPS has primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. The Zambia Security and Intelligence Service (ZSIS), under the Office of the President, is responsible for external and internal intelligence. The Central Police Command in Lusaka oversees 10 provincial police divisions with jurisdiction over police stations in towns countrywide.
The army, air force, and national service are responsible for external security. The commander of each service reports to the president through the minister of defense. By law defense forces have domestic security responsibilities only in cases of national emergency. In addition to security responsibilities, the Zambia National Service performs road maintenance and other public works projects and runs state farms for displaced children.
Paramilitary units of the ZPS, customs officers, and border patrol personnel guard lake, river, and other border areas. The Drug Enforcement Commission is responsible for enforcing the laws on illegal drugs, fraud, counterfeiting, and money laundering. The Drug Enforcement Commission, customs, and border patrol personnel operate under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Impunity was a problem. Senior police officials disciplined some officers for engaging in extortion of prisoners by suspending them or issuing written reprimands, but many abuses went unaddressed. Dismissals of officers for extortion were rare.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The constitution and law require authorities to obtain a warrant before arresting a person for most offenses. Police do not need a warrant, however, when they suspect a person has committed offenses such as treason, sedition, defamation of the president, or unlawful assembly. Police rarely obtained warrants before making arrests.
Although the law requires that detainees appear before a court within 24 to 48 hours of arrest and be informed of the charges against them, authorities routinely held detainees for as long as six months before trial, which often exceeded the length of the prison sentence corresponding to conviction for the defendant’s alleged crime. The HRC noted this abuse remained common, particularly in rural districts, where subordinate courts operated in circuits because detainees could be tried only when a circuit court judge was in the district.
On July 5, the president invoked emergency powers that gave police authority to detain individuals for up to seven days without charge. There were numerous reports of politically motivated detentions of individuals held for the maximum seven-day period without charge before release. On August 23, Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja claimed police officers had complied with the terms of the declaration and added that no complaints of police excesses were filed.
Based on a presumption of innocence provided for in the constitution, the Criminal Procedure Code provides for bail in case of any detention. Before granting bail, however, courts often required at least one employed person, often a government employee, to vouch for the detainee. Bail may not be granted in cases of murder, aggravated robbery, violations of narcotics laws, and treason.
Authorities frequently refused or delayed bail in politically sensitive cases. For example, United Progressive People party leader Saviour Chishimba was denied bail when he was charged with defaming the president. Chishimba was held for eight days, released, and the charges against him dropped.
Detainees generally did not have prompt access to a lawyer. Although the law obligates the government to provide an attorney to indigent persons who face serious charges, many indigent defendants were unaware of this right. The government’s legal aid office and the Legal Resources Foundation provided legal services to some indigent arrestees.
Arbitrary Arrest: According to human rights groups, arbitrary or false arrest and detention remained problems. Police often arbitrarily summoned family members of criminal suspects for questioning, and authorities arrested criminal suspects based on uncorroborated accusations or as a pretext for extortion. Human rights groups reported police routinely detained citizens after midnight, a practice legal only during a state of emergency. For example, five opposition UPND members were charged with robbery–a nonbailable offense–and held in detention for one year. When the case reached trial, the High Court dismissed the case due to lack of evidence.
Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was a problem. Thirty-two percent of prison inmates were in pretrial detention. On average detainees spent an estimated six months in pretrial detention, which often exceeded the maximum length of the prison sentence corresponding to the detainee’s alleged crime. Contributing factors included inability to meet bail requirements, trial delays, and adjournments due to absent prosecutors and their witnesses.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees had the ability to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention, but police often prevented detainees from filing challenges to prolonged detention. For example, UPND vice president Mwamba and other opposition leaders were detained on numerous occasions during the 2016 election campaign and prevented from challenging the legality of their arrests in court until they had spent several days in jail.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary; the government largely respected judicial independence. The ruling party intervened in criminal and civil cases in which it had an interest.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but the judicial system was open to influence by the ruling party in cases in which it has an interest. Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly of charges against them, and to be present at a fair and timely trial. Nevertheless, defendants were not always informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, and trials were usually delayed. Defendants enjoy the right to consult with an attorney of their choice, to have adequate time to prepare a defense, to present their own witnesses, and to confront or question witnesses against them. Indigent defendants were rarely provided an attorney at state expense. Interpretation services in local languages were available in most cases. There were no reports defendants were compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants had the right to appeal.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were some reports of political prisoners or detainees, particularly following the 2016 election period. For example, in October 2016 UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema stated police arrested more than 2,000 UPND members on “trumped up” charges. The ZPS claimed these individuals were arrested while committing assaults and robberies. Some were tried and convicted of assault and malicious damage of property, while others were released without charge or, if tried, acquitted.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Complainants may seek redress for human rights abuses from the High Court. Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations and appeal court decisions to the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. In 2015 a group of Barotse activists appealed to the court, seeking to compel the government to respond to a legal argument for the region’s independence. The appeal remained pending at year’s end.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government frequently did not respect these prohibitions. The law requires a search or arrest warrant before police may enter a home, except during a state of emergency or when police suspect a person has committed an offense such as treason, sedition, defaming the president, or unlawful assembly. Police routinely entered homes without a warrant even when one was legally required. Domestic human rights groups reported authorities routinely detained, interrogated, and physically abused family members or associates of criminal suspects to obtain their cooperation in identifying or locating the suspects.
On April 10, police used tear gas and destroyed property in a raid without a search warrant on the home of UPND leader Hichilema (see section 1.d.).
The law grants the Drug Enforcement Commission, ZSIS, and police authority to monitor communications using wiretaps with a warrant based on probable cause, and authorities generally respected this requirement. The government required cell phone service providers to register all subscriber identity module (SIM) cards. Critics contended the government’s Zambia Information and Communications Technology Agency monitored telecommunications.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, the law contains some provisions the government used to restrict these freedoms. For example, on July 5, the president invoked emergency powers that expanded police powers to close down newspapers. Although it was not employed, the announcement was seen as a significant threat to press freedom by private media outlets.
Freedom of Expression: The government remained sensitive to criticism in general and by the political opposition in particular. It was quick to prosecute critics on the pretext of incitement of public disorder and hate speech. For example, on August 3, police arrested and charged opposition United Progressive People leader Saviour Chishimba for defaming the president by accusing him of becoming dictatorial (see section 1.d.).
Press and Media Freedom: The government published two of the country’s four most widely circulated newspapers. One of the two privately owned newspapers opposed the ruling PF party, while the other supported it and the government. Opposition political parties and civil society organizations contended government-run media failed to report objectively. According to the Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf), although state media covered government and nongovernmental events, coverage was not fair; state media failed to educate and inform citizens in an objective, balanced, and clear way.
The government continued its crackdown on press freedom and independent media. On April 24, it auctioned property belonging to the Post newspaper, which included a printing press, radio equipment, trucks, and other vehicles despite the case still being heard in the High Court. In June 2016 the Zambia Revenue Authority closed the Postostensibly for outstanding tax obligations.
In addition to a multichannel government-controlled radio station that broadcasts nationwide, approximately 73 private and community radio stations broadcast. These radio stations experienced political pressure. Although some local private stations broadcast call-in and other talk programs on which diverse and critical viewpoints were expressed freely, media bodies claimed journalists who appeared on such programs received threats from senior government officials and politicians. On October 10, the media regulatory body Independent Broadcasting Authority summoned Prime TV management for “flouting broadcasting” laws and ordered it to submit recordings of programs transmitted on the station from August 7 to October 7. Police on occasion used force to interrupt broadcasts.
The postelections media space remained constricted during the year because the government took further steps to silence its critics. On April 12, the government threatened to close down the independent Mast newspaper.
Violence and Harassment: The government stated it tolerated negative articles in newspapers and magazines, but there were several reports that showed government, ruling party, and some opposition officials harassed journalists. PSAf reported the arrests of journalists compromised media freedom, undermined journalists’ objectivity and impartiality to question or demand accountability, and led to “self-censorship.” Progovernment political activists and state agents subjected journalists to physical attack, harassment, and intimidation. For example, on March 3, ruling PF party supporters, locally known as “cadres,” attacked the Law Association of Zambia offices in Lusaka because association president, Linda Kasonde, argued that President Lungu was not legally eligible to run for another term in 2021. Local civil society groups condemned the attack.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government remained sensitive to media criticism and indirectly censored publications or penalized publishers.
Libel/Slander Laws: Libel and slander laws were applied against government critics. For example, in April police arrested and charged opposition Economic and Equity Party leader Chilufya Tayali with libel regarding remarks he posted on Facebook accusing Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja of covering up irregularities in the arrest of UPND leader Hichilema. On August 18, Tayali was discharged and charges against him dropped.
Although access generally was not restricted and individuals and groups could freely express their views via the internet, the government threatened individuals with arrest and online media with closure. The government restricted access to antigovernment online publication Zambian Watchdog and other sites critical of the government.
On April 5, the president directed the Zambia Information and Communications Authority to monitor social media. On May 13, Transport and Communications Minister Brian Mushimba announced the government would regulate online content to curb “social media abuse and exploitation of members of the public.” On July 25, police arrested Edward Makayi, an engineering student at a private university in Lusaka, for online criticism of the president and other government officials.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, 25.5 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The constitution and law provide for freedom of peaceful assembly; however, the government restricted this right, and police and progovernment groups disrupted meetings, rallies, and other activities of opposition political parties and civil society organizations.
The Public Order Act requires political parties and other groups to notify police in advance of any rallies but does not require formal approval. Nevertheless, police did not allow some gatherings to take place without a “permit.” Opposition political parties complained of selective application of the law, noting police allowed ruling party gatherings without notification or permits. Police often prevented opposition and civil society groups planning to protest government actions from gathering on the grounds that police received notifications too late, had insufficient staff to provide security, or the gathering would coincide with government events in the same province. Although police claimed inadequate staff to provide security for gatherings, police responded in force to disrupt opposition gatherings and often allowed ruling party supporters to disrupt them.
For example, on August 24, police prevented a UPND thanksgiving prayers ceremony following the release of party leader Hichilema at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka. Police stated that the UPND lacked approval from the minister of religious affairs. On September 29, police arrested and detained human rights activist Alliance for Community Action director Laura Miti and opposition Patriots for Economic Progress leader Sean Tembo for staging a peaceful protest at parliament during the presentation of the national budget. The protest was in opposition to corruption in connection with the procurement of 42 fire trucks.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government placed some limits on this right. All organizations must formally apply for registration to the registrar of societies in the Ministry of Home Affairs. The registration process was long and allowed the registrar considerable discretion.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Gender-based violence was a problem, and authorities failed to provide adequate physical protection. Violence against girls and women–including defilement, rape, marriages of girls under age 18, and prostitution–was a major problem affecting female asylum seekers and refugees in camps and among those residing independently, especially in urban areas. Gender inequality, economic dependence on men, and impunity of perpetrators were among the factors contributing to abuse.
In-country Movement: The government intermittently restricted freedom of internal movement. Although police generally used roadblocks to control criminal activity, enforce customs and immigration controls, check drivers’ documents, and inspect vehicles for safety compliance, there were reports police used roadblocks to limit participation in political gatherings, especially during parliamentary by-elections. Police routinely extorted money and goods from motorists at roadblocks.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has a system for providing protection to refugees. According to UNHCR, although the law provides for the granting of asylum, it also gives the minister of home affairs wide discretion to deport refugees without appeal. The government was responsible for conducting refugee status determinations.
Access to Basic Services: Although the government provided basic services, including housing and limited health-care services to refugees, the law does not accord equal access to education. The government, however, provided primary and secondary education in refugee settlements.
Refugees were required to obtain government permission to move or live outside refugee camps, which was frequently granted on a temporary basis. Government policy limited refugees’ legal employment options to refugee camps, unless refugees obtained specific government authorization to work outside camps.
Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement and offered naturalization to refugees residing in the country. The government and UNHCR pursued the integration of naturalized Angolan and Rwandan former refugees. Delayed passport issuance for both Angolans and Rwandans, however, kept several thousand in legal limbo.
Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees, and the recognition rate of asylum claims was high. The recourse for those rejected was appeal to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Provincial and district joint operations committees are responsible for establishing the identity of asylum seekers and their reasons for leaving their country of origin. According to the Department of Immigration, the government intercepted several groups from the Horn of Africa and other parts of Africa at the border and within the country. UNHCR interceded with the director of immigration to prevent forced deportations. The last instance of forced removal occurred in 2015.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for officials convicted of corruption, and the government attempted to enforce the law but did not do so consistently. Officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The government has a national anticorruption policy and a national anticorruption implementation plan that addresses matters such as resource mobilization, coordination of anticorruption programs in the public and private sectors, program monitoring and evaluation, and legal reform. According to the local Transparency International executive director, the National Anticorruption Policy (NACP) contributed to institutional coordination, harmonization of laws on corruption, and establishment of integrity committees. A lack of funds for the NACP and its implementation remained a challenge. Although the government collaborated with the international community and civil society organizations to improve capacity to investigate and prevent corruption, anticorruption NGOs observed the enforcement rate among senior government officials and in the civil service was low. According to Transparency International’s local executive director, the average conviction rate for those prosecuted for corruption was only 10 to 20 percent.
Corruption: NGOs observed the government only targeted minor offenders and avoided prosecuting serving senior officials until they left office or joined opposition political parties. For example, on March 6, the government newspapers Times of Zambia and Zambia Daily Mail reported government investigative and law enforcement agencies found no evidence of corrupt practices on the part of Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya and other government officials. They had been accused of involvement in the illicit issuance of a permit to Transglobe Export Produce Ltd for a multimillion-dollar maize export to Malawi.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires income and asset disclosure by a small fraction of political officeholders and public servants. For example, although the Anti-Corruption Act requires certain officers of the Anti-Corruption Commission to disclose their assets and liabilities prior to taking office, it does not apply to other public officials. Under the Electoral Process Act, presidential candidates are required to declare their assets and liabilities. Conviction of making a false declaration is punishable by seven years’ imprisonment without the option of a fine. Some government departments and institutions such as the Zambia Revenue Authority maintained integrity committees to enhance asset disclosure mechanisms within the workplace. In several institutions asset disclosure requirements were vague or inadequately enforced.