Zambia: HRW Report on Electionsm 12/8/96

Zambia: HRW Report on Electionsm 12/8/96

Zambia: HRW Report on Elections
Date Distributed (ymd): 961208

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HRW/Africa Alarmed by Seriously Flawed Election Process, Calls on Zambian Government to Improve its Human Rights Record

Abuses in Runup to Elections Require Strong International Response

(27 Nov 96)--In "Zambia: Elections and Human Rights in the Third Republic," released today, Human Rights Watch/Africa charges that numerous human rights violations before the November 18 vote seriously undermined the legitimacy of the elections themselves and set a negative tone for the country's development over the next several years. In these parliamentary and presidential elections, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) won a majority and President Frederick Chiluba was returned for a second term. The vote marked the second multiparty election since 1991, when twenty-seven years of authoritarian rule under Kenneth Kaunda was ended.

Zambia had been heralded as a model for democracy in Africa after the peaceful transfer of power in 1991. The report details that although Zambia initially made overall progress toward respect for civil and political rights, with some liberalizing reforms, by 1993 the progress appeared to have stopped and the Chiluba government increasingly resorted to methods used under Kaunda rule to suppress criticism.

"The result is that Zambian citizens are plagued by restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, intimidation of those in the legal system and harassment of opposition parties," said Peter Takirambudde, Executive Director for Human Rights Watch/Africa and one of the authors of the report. "Some of these abuses are the legacy of the Kaunda years, but in many cases human rights violations are the results of new initiatives by the Chiluba government. We are particularly concerned at increasing government efforts to undermine the NGOs and the judiciary. They are essential foundations of any democracy."

In calling on The World Bank's Consultative Group for Zambia, the U.S. government and Southern African Development Community countries to continue to pressure the Zambian government to improve its record on human rights, Takirambudde stated, "The international response to the Zambia crisis has been impressive to date. Unity in pressing the government for improved human rights reforms is essential and general support for civic associations and in particular groups that lobby and campaign for human rights standards is needed."

The fifty-three-page report details how state intimidation of the opposition increased significantly in 1995 when former president Kaunda announced a formal return to politics. The runup to the November 18 elections saw a number of abuses. There is evidence that duplicate National Registration Cards were been issued to some voters, that the names of others have been omitted from voters rolls and that duplicate National Registration Cards appeared on the rolls. The ruling MMD also deliberately blurred the distinction between party and state. In Lusaka's Soweto Market the MMD conducted a voter registration exercise, with MMD supporters pressuring voters to confirm their affiliation to the MMD. Human Rights Watch/Africa also obtained documentation proving a government plan to augment the police with MMD supporters prior to the elections. Government officials also threatened to deny state services and programs to constituencies that did not vote for the ruling MMD.

The main opposition party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) also engaged in electoral abuses in by-elections. UNIP sympathizers assaulted MMD supporters and villagers they suspected of backing the MMD. Such inter-political clashes in the by-elections restricted freedom of movement among villagers in several constituencies.

The government forced a radical amendment to the 1991 constitution through the MMD-dominated parliament in May 1996. Particularly controversial was a provision that imposed new requirements on persons seeking to become president. These included that a candidate be a Zambian citizen born of parents who are Zambian by birth or descent and that the candidate not be a tribal chief. These requirements appeared to be tailored to disqualify specific opposition leaders from running for president, including former president Kenneth Kaunda - who is partially of Malawian heritage - and UNIP's vice presidential candidate - a tribal chief. These restrictions violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zambia is a party.

In June and July 1996, a shadowy group called the "Black Mamba" was blamed by the government for a spate of bomb blasts in Zambia that killed one person. Eight UNIP officials including its vice president were arrested in connection with the bombings and were committed to the Lusaka High Court charged with treason and murder. The trial provided little evidence to suggest that these UNIP members were involved in any violent conspiracy against the state. It appeared they were detained solely because of their political affiliation. They were acquitted of treason and murder charges by the High Court in November.

The independent press was also the target of government intimidation. "The Post" newspaper has been under particular attack. In February 1996 police arrested three of its editors and banned edition 401 before its distribution because it reported that the government was secretly planning to hold a referendum on the constitution without giving the public time to prepare. The day's on-line edition was also banned, making it the first act of censorship on the Internet in Africa.

RECOMMENDATIONS To the Government:

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on the Zambian government to: * Guarantee the independence of the judiciary as required by Zambian and international law. In particular, the government should not orchestrate the appointment or dismissal of judges solely because of their political affiliations or regional origins.

* Publicly dissociate itself from and condemn any efforts by public officials to undermine the independence of the judiciary.

* Facilitate debate of the Mwanakatwe Constitutional Review Commission proposals; call elections to a constituent assembly to review and as appropriate amend the 1991 Constitution

* Guarantee the right to a fair trial by a competent and objective judiciary in accord with international standards. In cases where this right has been violated, submit the case for retrial or release the defendant. No one should be detained solely for the nonviolent expression of his or her political beliefs.

* As promised by the MMD in its election platform in 1991 and in 1996, ensure that all Zambians may exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association, that the organizations of civil society may freely operate, and that checks and balances of the different branches of government are respected. Safeguards to this end should be enacted into law.

* Guarantee that people with diverse viewpoints are given appropriate access to state-owned radio and television.

* Ensure a strict division between the functioning of government and the MMD party.

* Stop providing state funds and facilities to support the MMD's political campaigns.

* Investigate allegations of police abuse and improper treatment of those in detention, and hold those found responsible accountable before the law.

* Guarantee that prisoners' rights are respected according to international law. This includes the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the right to adequate medical and sanitary facilities.

* Enact into law the Munyama Commission's recommendation that a permanent human rights commission be established. Ensure that this commission is objective and nonpartisan to avoid the possibility of political bias.

* Provide government officials and police with special training about human rights standards and protection, while instituting procedures through which violations of human rights are the subject of effective investigation and criminal prosecution.

To All Political Parties:

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on all Zambian political parties to publicly advocate protection and respect for human rights in their platform and promise to hold party members who commit human rights abuses accountable.

To the International Community:

Human Rights Watch/Africa recommends that the international community:

* Continue to pressure the government to improve its record on human rights as integral to good governance, especially with respect to government transparency and accountability for its actions, through formal communications and other measures such as the conditioning of balance of payments support.

* Support the efforts of civic organizations to play an active role in civil society, and in particular their efforts to monitor, lobby and campaign for improved human rights standards.

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The World Bank's Consultative Group for Zambia ("Paris Club") to:

* Continue the Bournemouth meeting's agreed pressure on the Zambian government for "tangible progress on the governance issue," and include specific reference to human rights as integral to this.

* Maintain unity in the pressure for an improved Zambian government performance on human rights as integral to good governance.

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on the United States to:

* Encourage new U.S. ambassador Arlene Render to act on her commitment to vigorously promote human rights in Zambia by meeting regularly with the Zambia human rights community, publicly denounce human rights abuses, and use U.S. bilateral assistance to Zambia to achieve maximum leverage on human rights.

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to:

* Continue to press the Zambian government to improve its human rights record.

* Send an investigative team from the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security to Zambia to report back to the Organ about how its member states can improve the human rights record in Zambia.

* Malawi must clarify its position over accepting the forced repatriation of alleged "Malawians" from Zambia, several of these individuals being prominent members of the Zambian opposition who appear arbitrarily to have been stripped of their Zambian nationalities in violation of international standards.

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The Commonwealth Secretariat to send a fact-finding mission to Zambia to investigate human rights practices across the country.

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights to send a mission to investigate Zambia's current human rights situation.

For additional copies of "Zambia: Elections and Human Rights in the Third Republic," please send $6.00 (domestic) or $7.50 (international) to Publications Department, Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104.

Human Rights Watch/Africa Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. Kenneth Roth is the executive director and Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board. Its Africa division was established in 1988 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Peter Takirambudde is the executive director and William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory committee.

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From: Message-Id: <> Date: Sun, 8 Dec 1996 12:53:11 -0500 Subject: Zambia: HRW Report on Elections

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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