HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE IN ZAMBIA PRISONS
PROTECT INMATES AND ADHERE TO HUMAN RIGHTS
The violation of human rights happening in Zambia’s correctional facilities is shocking and a challenge on the Government to act quickly and address the matter.
The revelations from the 2023 Prisons Audit Report are not only alarming but a clear case of many violations on human rights by Zambian authorities. Action should be taken to correct the situation immediately.
According to Article 4 of the United Nation’s (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights no person should be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Further, article 9 states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exiled.
Domestically, the Zambian Constitution outlines the national value of human dignity, equity, social justice, equality, and non-discrimination.
The 2023 Prison Audit and survey revealed unacceptable human rights violations including the right to food, right to bedding, right to come before a court within 24 hours, and the right to be held separately from convicts.
It is unfortunate that these revelations are emerging shortly after the Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) Commissioner General Frederick Chilukutu announced that there have been reforms made and that a conducive environment had been created among intimates to protect human rights and make prisons more humane. However, these revelations from the 2023 Audit report speak to the contrary. There is clearly cruelty and human rights violations behind the walls of Zambia’s correctional services.
There have been several interventions such as the procurement of 50,000 blankets and 27,000 mattresses that were distributed to prisons countrywide, and the steps taken to operationalize an advanced Inmates Management System (IMS) following the commissioning of Zambia’s Home Affairs Public Security System.
We feel that there is still need for significant reforms to ensure that there is quality of service delivery for inmates and officers employed by ZCS.
Like several other government ministries and spending agents, the ZCS grapples with a staffing shortage which compromises on the delivery of quality of services.
A recent ActionAid Study (Fifty Years of Failure: The IMF, Debt and Austerity in Africa) reveals the effects of austerity measures on the public sector wages bills across Africa. The current fiscal consolidation is likely to affect the government’s ability to adequately recruit, train and monitor officers in the ZCS.
We therefore recommend the following:
- We challenge the Human Rights Commission of Zambia to take action and protect the rights of these inmates in prison. The Human Rights Commission should conduct a countrywide inspection of prisons to verify issues presented in the report and make urgent remedial measures.
- The Government through the Minister of Home Affairs or the Prisons Commissioner General should tender a public apology to inmates both past and present for the failure to uphold their human rights.
- The Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) should also make a declaration of actions beyond the provision of additional beds and blankets to inmates – addressing the plethora of shortcomings revealed in the audit.
As ActionAid Zambia, our vision is to have a just, equitable and sustainable Zambia in which every person enjoys the right to a life of dignity.
Jovina Nawenzake (Ms)
INTERIM COUNTRY DIRECTOR-ACTIONAID ZAMBIA