The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has urged the government to effectively guard against facilitating a return to any form of lawlessness that restricts the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms in the country.
Pamela Sambo, the Commission Chairperson expressed concern with the continued abuse and discriminatory application of the Public Order Act (POA) by the Zambia Police Service.
Sambo said this during celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Lusaka on Monday.
She said the right to freedom of assembly was a fundamental human right that should be respected in a democracy such as ours.
“The Commission strongly urges the government to present the Public Gatherings Bill, that seeks to replace the current problematic POA, to the National Assembly for enactment without further delay,” Sambo stated.
She said the Commission had noted that the police had continued to use related legal provisions to restrict the exercise of citizens’ freedom of expression.
Sambo urged the government to exercise utmost restraint from arbitrary actions when dealing with citizens who may be accused of abusing their right to freedom of expression.
“This will avoid diminishing the potential gains noted from the decriminalization of defamation of the President,” she noted.
Sambo emphasized that in a human rights dispensation, suspects should at all times be subjected to the full extent of the due process of the law, regardless of who they are, or the nature of pain or injury they may have caused to their victims.
She further stated that it was disheartening to note that cases of suspects dying or being maimed in police custody were still being recorded.
“The Commission calls upon the government to effectively put an end to such deprivation of the right to life and other associated human rights,” Sambo said.
United Nations (UN) Country Representative, Beatrice Munthali, noted that in the last two and a half years, the country had seen meaningful progress on human rights, including with respect to abolishing the death penalty among other reforms.
Munthali, however, stated that as 2024 approaches, the country should consolidate the gains and redouble efforts to achieve greater and swifter progress on human rights.
“This should include with respect to implementing the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms, not least those emanating from Zambia’s recently concluded 4th Cycle Universal Periodic Review,” she said.
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