An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Zambia

Executive Summary

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.

b. Disappearance

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.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

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.

Human Rights Reports
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select A Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future