Power and Politics

Human Rights Commission demands immediate halt to police abuse of public order act


The Human Rights Commission has called on the police to immediately cease the arbitrary application of the Public Order Act.

Dr. Pamela Towela Sambo, the Commission Chairperson, urged the police to respect everyone’s rights to freedom of association and assembly.

This statement, issued in Lusaka on Monday, came in response to opposition complaints about being denied their rights to assemble and associate.

Sambo expressed concern over a disturbing trend where the police have stopped or disrupted opposition political parties and leaders from gathering.

“The opposition and leaders have been stopped from exercising their inalienable, democratic and constitutional rights to freedom of association and assembly,” she noted.

Sambo highlighted an incident in Kabwe District, Central Province, where police disrupted a meeting at the office of Bishop Clement Mulenga, during a courtesy call by the Sixth Republican President, Edgar Lungu, on May 17, 2024.

“The Commission strongly condemns the invasion of the Catholic Bishop’s office by the police in an attempt to suppress Mr. Lungu’s enjoyment of the rights to freedom of association and assembly,” Sambo stated.

Read More: Govt accuses ex-President Lungu of inciting lawlessness, may face prosecution

She described the incident as another example of the arbitrary, unnecessary and disproportionate application of the Public Order Act, which cannot be justified in a democratic state like Zambia.

“It is commendable that the government has since tendered an apology to the Catholic Church for the police misconduct and violation of human rights through the invasion of the private meeting,” she acknowledged.

Sambo urged the government to go beyond apologising for the Kabwe incident and address the broader issue of increasing violations of opposition parties’ rights to freely assemble and associate.

“The rights to freedom of association and assembly are central to any functioning democracy and the government has an inescapable obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill equal enjoyment of such rights without any form of discrimination,” Sambo advised.

She implored the government to take practical steps to immediately stop the systematic erosion of human rights by the police.

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