Human Rights Commission calls on the government to enact a law that criminalises torture in Zambia

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The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) calls on the government to enact a law that criminalises Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in order to effectively combat such crimes and violations.

The enactment of an anti-torture law will greatly contribute to effective protection of suspects from acts of torture from Law Enforcement Agencies and also provide for adequate punishment of perpetrators and compensation of victims of torture.

Currently, even if Article 15 of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia prohibits torture and other forms of ill-treatment, there is no enabling legislation that defines torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment nor prescribe penalties for such violations.

As a result of lack of an anti-torture law, perpetrators are only charged with offences relating to assault because the Constitution under Article 18 provides that “a person shall not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty is prescribed in a written law”.

It must be noted that acts of torture constitute a grave violation of the inherent dignity and worth of a human being and are absolutely prohibited under international human rights law.

Torture is a crime against humanity and its prohibition is binding on all members of the international community, including Zambia, as it forms part of international customary law. It is regrettable that despite ratifying the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) in 1998, Zambia has not yet domesticated the Convention.

Articles 2 of the UNCAT provide that “each State Party shall take effective legislative…measures to prevent acts of torture” while article 4 states that “State Parties shall make the offences [of torture] punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature”.

By using the law relating to assault to punish crimes of torure, Zambia is falling short of meeting her international and national obligation to effectively combat the heinous acts of torture, which are illegally occassionally used as methods of investigations and interrogations.

The Commission believes that enacting an anti-torture law will be a more sustainable and
effective way of combating crimes of torture against everyone regardless of their status than sporadic condemnation of such acts whenever individuals of a certain status are affected.

The Commission has refrained from commenting on the recent allegations of torutre by some individuals in order to avoid jeopardising investigations by an institution to which such
allegations have officially been made.

However, the Commission will continue investigating and monitoring allegations of torture and would like to urge all victims to obtain medical reports and ensure that such reports are signed by a certified medical practitioner.

Tags :
criminal,human rights,Torture
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