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US State Department report shows politically motivated killings and torture taking place under UPND

The latest State of Human Rights report by the US State Department on Zambia has revealed damning evidence of police killings and violations of human rights.

The damning 30 page Zambia 2022 Human Rights Report is the first major publication to cite the UPND government of gross human rights violations.

It shows that arbitrary deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings are taking place under the UPND administration

It says there were reports that some government agents used excessive force and committed arbitrary and unlawful killings.

The report showed that on June 2, police shot and killed Noble Mulenga, a day laborer at the Kateshi Coffee plantation in Kasama, during a worker protest.

Mulenga was among plantation workers who were demanding a salary increase and improved working conditions when police reportedly fired live ammunition at the protestors.

The report also stated that on February 20, police detained and reportedly tortured former President Lungu’s barber Shabby Chilekwa for allegedly killing a cadre during the 2019 parliamentary by-election campaigns in Kaoma in Western Province.

Chilekwa’s lawyer alleged police and UPND cadres tortured Chilekwa, causing hearing impairment that required medical care.

It noted that the Human Rights Commission could not verify the alleged torture due to lack of police cooperation.

“In addition, in June a video appeared in social media showing armed and uniformed army personnel slapping handcuffed youths for allegedly defaming the president. Military authorities initially justified the action, but later launched an investigation into the incident after a public outcry and demands from the HRC and other watchdog institutions,” it said.

The report revealed that according to human rights groups, arbitrary arrests and detention continued.

It says Police often arrested and detained suspects for questioning without promptly charging them.

“For example, on September 1, police in Lusaka arrested and detained opposition Patriots for Economic Progress party leader Sean Tembo for several days and denied him bond before formally charging him with hate speech. Police explained in a public statement that the delay was due to the unavailability of Tembo’s lawyer after Tembo’s insistence that he could only be charged in the presence of his lawyer.”

It added, “The HRC called the detention a violation of Tembo’s right to liberty and protection of the law.”

“On average, detainees spent an estimated six months in pretrial detention, which often exceeded the maximum length of the prison sentence for the detainee’s alleged crime.”

The report noted that contributing factors included inability to meet bail requirements, some offenses being nonbailable, trial delays, judges working on a circuit court basis, and trial continuances due to absent prosecutors and witnesses.

“In August lawyers representing former PF Deputy Secretary General Mumbi Phiri and her co-accused, Shabby Chilekwa, protested their seven- month detention without charge. The two were arrested in February and eventually charged with the murder of a UPND cadre during the 2019 parliamentary by- election campaigns in Kaoma in Western Province.”

It also noted, “In January private television station KBN-TV released a leaked audio recording of a telephone conversation between President Hichilema’s political advisor Levy Ngoma and Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security Permanent Secretary Josephs Akafumba in which they plotted to use state institutions to undermine an opposition party ahead of a parliamentary by-election, with Ngoma suggesting the scheme was sanctioned by Hichilema and Vice President Mutale Nalumango.“

“Authorities initially claimed the audio was fake and reportedly accused journalists of having tapped the pair’s telephones. Subsequently, police summoned KBN-TV station manager Petty Chanda and interrogated her regarding the alleged offense of “destroying evidence.” Although police did not arrest Chanda, the NGO Chapter One Foundation stated the incident undermined press freedom and the privacy rights of media employees.”

“In February, ruling UPND party parliamentarian Heartson Mabeta threatened News Diggers – an influential and popular private newspaper – with closure after it published a story citing UPND Secretary General Batuke Imenda as saying his party, which was elected on a campaign promise of job creation, did not sign contracts with anyone to promise them employment.”

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