Zambia: HRW Report, 7/29/97

Zambia: HRW Report, 7/29/97

Zambia: HRW Report

Date distributed (ymd): 970729

Document reposted by APIC

This posting contains a summary of the findings and recommendations of a recent Human Rights Watch/Africa report on Zambia. The report was issued earlier this month, prior to the July 10-12 World Bank Consultative Group meeting on Zambia. At the end of that meeting, the World Bank announced that "premised on satisfactory economic and governance performance, Zambia's external partners indicated plans to make available in 1997 at least US$150 million in balance of payments support, plus an additional US$285 million in project assistance."

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(New York, July 4, 1997)--International ambivalence of the run-up to the November 1996 elections and their outcome had resulted in a donor freeze that specifically targeted balance of payments support. Most efforts by the government in the post-election period are largely aimed so that aid flows that were frozen before the November 1996 elections are resumed. These changes are mostly superficial.

Zambia--The Reality Amidst Contradictions: Human Rights Since the 1996 Elections, released by Human Rights Watch/Africa a week ahead of the World Bank Consultative Group meeting on Zambia in Paris (France), reports that the Chiluba administration has made a few begrudging, and mostly cosmetic efforts to improve its human rights record. According to Peter Takirambudde, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch/Africa,

"President Chiluba must make human rights improvements such as an autonomous human rights commission, an independent judiciary and a total respect for freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Zambian government has since April been trying to portray itself as having taken human rights issues seriously, but we have found that many of these efforts are superficial."

Since the November 1996 elections there have been fewer incidents of harassment and intimidation of the independent media than in the pre-election period, but blatant violations still occurred. These abuses included charges before the courts against the independent media or the short-term imprisonment of four journalists.

Zambia Information Service acting deputy director Mundia Nalishebo was suspended with five other state media journalists in November after allegations that they had collaborated with a local election monitoring NGO that had found the elections neither free nor fair. More ominously, the state tried to introduce in March legislation to form a Media Council, which would force journalists to register with the state, would strip journalists deemed ineligible of the right to work and those who continued would face jail terms and fines. After considerable controversy and international outcry, the state suspended consideration of the bill in April. It has yet to be tabled.

The 71-page report details how the government's record on respect for free assembly and association has been poor, although there have been insignificant improvements since the 1996 elections. The three local human rights NGOs that declared the 1996 multiparty elections not "free and fair" have been victimized by the state. On November 24 and 25, police raided the offices of the Committee for a Clean Campaign (CCC), the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) and the offices of the Inter-Africa Network for Human Rights and Development (Afronet) and documents seized despite lawyers' assertions that the search warrants were not valid. Many of these documents have still not been returned.

The Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP), which also declared that the elections were not free and fair, was targeted by the government. FODEP had received tax exempt status from the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) because it was operating on a grant aimed at strengthening the democratic process, including election monitoring and local government elections. On December 19 it received a tax demand for outstanding tax arrears for K27 million (approximately U.S. $21,000).

The opposition has also been harassed in the immediate post election period. For example, the main opposition, the United National Independence Party (UNIP), found its attempts to hold a peaceful rally in Ndola in February blocked by the police. There has also been occasional harassment of relatives of senior UNIP officials such as Vida Ngoma, the eighty year-old aunt of Betty Kaunda, former President Kaunda's wife, who was detained and kept in a cell for two days with a corpse after police searched her house without a warrant.

For much of early 1997, a presidential petition has been the main focus of Zambian political life. The petition, being heard in the Supreme Court, was brought by the opposition against President Chiluba, challenges the elections and President Chiluba's constitutional right to the presidency. Some of the witnesses brought to testify in this case have been harassed with death threats being reported by some witnesses. One witness, Theresa Kalo, was arrested and held for several days by police after she testified, three other witnesses reportedly went into hiding, apparently out of fear of arrest.

The establishment of a permanent Human Rights Commission in March 1997, was, in principle, a welcome development. Yet there are substantive problems with it. The commission's composition and its limited resources and powers still raise many questions. The hasty process by which the government appointed its members, most of whom lack robust human rights credentials, has drawn broad domestic criticism, and to date the commission appears to have no program and no activities to report. The commission also lacks premises and resources. The promotion of the commission's creation internationally, with a view of improving Zambia's image, has also contrasted with its public profile in Zambia. Officials in the government printing office there told Human Rights Watch/Africa that the documents concerning the commission were available "only to diplomats," after initially denying they were had ever been printed. These documents have, however, been widely distributed to international donors; it is likely that the creation of the commission was rushed so that it would be in place prior to the April 25 preliminary meeting of the Consultative Group of donors in London. The commission has not had an auspicious start.

The international community's efforts towards seeking improved human rights and good governance practice in Zambia have been exemplary. The stick and carrot approach of offering renewed balance of payments support in return for positive actions by the Zambian government has had some results. At the forthcoming July 10-11 Consultative Group meeting in Paris, agreed balance of payments resumption in tandem with built-in conditionality is needed so that these minor improvements are likely to become meaningful and sustainable.


To the Zambian Government:

Based on the findings of this report, Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on the Zambian government to:

* Facilitate debate of the proposals of the 1995 Mwanakatwe Constitutional Review Commission 1995 proposals that major constitutional reforms first be agreed to by a constituent assembly and be subjected to a referendum.

* Facilitate the establishment of a truly independent Electoral Commission and an accurate and credible register of voters.

* Call fresh elections to a constituent assembly to review and, as appropriate, amend the Constitution of 1991 and the Constitutional Amendment Act of 1996.

* Ensure that all Zambians have the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the constitution-making and reform process through open, public debate and analysis until consensus is reached.

* Re-appoint commissioners on the permanent Human Rights Commission through a process that is transparent and open to national debate and dialogue. Ensure that commissioners are elected in a manner that is objective and nonpartisan and that is not subject to political bias.

* Abide by the international human rights treaties to which Zambia is a party, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, taking action to this effect to:

-guarantee the independence of the judiciary as required by Zambian and international law;

-respect freedom of expression, lifting arbitrary restrictions on the print media and public broadcasting and ceasing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists, political commentators and others solely for the expression of their opinions;

-respect freedom of assembly, lifting the arbitrary restrictions imposed by law and in practice on public meetings and halting arbitrary police actions to ban or disperse such meetings and demonstrations;

-respect freedom of association, halting arbitrary arrests, intimidation and acts of violence targeting participants in nonviolent civil organizations;

-recognize the rights of human rights defenders in Zambia to monitor, investigate, and speak out on human rights concerns and freely to associate with others nationally and internationally in the promotion and protection of human rights;

-investigate allegations of police abuse and improper treatment of those in detention and hold those found responsible accountable before the law;

-provide government officials and police with special training about human rights standards and protection, while instituting procedures that ensure the effective investigation and criminal prosecution of violations of human rights, especially through the permanent Human Rights Commission; and

-Abolish the death penalty in any of its forms.

To All Political Parties

Human Rights Watch/Africa recommends all Zambian political parties to:

* Publicly advocate the protection and respect for human rights in their platforms and promise to hold party members who commit human rights abuses accountable.

To the International Community

Human Rights Watch/Africa recommends the international community to:

* Maintain the pressure and continue to tie assistance, particularly balance of payments support, to the achievement of clear and firm benchmarks that lead towards democratic and human rights progress. This strategic use of aid to ensure compliance is all important;

* Ensure a linkage of balance of payments support to cooperation between the government of Zambia and all national stakeholders and a respect for human rights and the rule of law;

* Utilize conditionality as a human rights instrument; but also use policy dialogue and positive measures as incentives not only to encourage change but also to maintain and perpetuate improvement in human rights observance;

* Provide further moral, financial and technical support to the efforts of organizations of civil society such that they may play an active role, particularly in monitoring, lobbying and campaigning for improved human rights standards;

* Target aid to support an independent judiciary, the development of a robust and independent Human Rights Commission and the independent media; and

* Leave humanitarian or development aid unrestricted. Poverty alleviation projects should be furthered and encouraged.

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The World Bank's Consultative Group for Zambia 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; and

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

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on Canada, E.U. member states, Japan, Norway, and the United States to:

* Encourage their diplomatic representatives in Lusaka to continue their commitment to the vigorous promotion of human rights in Zambia by meeting regularly with the Zambia human rights community, publicly denouncing human rights abuses and using their bilateral assistance to Zambia to achieve maximum leverage on human rights.


Copies of Zambia--The Reality Amidst Contradictions: Human Rights Since the 1996 Elections are available from the Publications Department, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104 for $10.50 (domestic shipping), $11.50 (Canada) and $15.00 (international shipping). Visa and Master Card accepted.

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.


Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Policy Information Center" <> Date: Tue, 29 Jul 1997 20:02:48 -0500 Subject: Zambia: HRW Report

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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