The Human Rights Commission (HRC) welcomes the directive by His Excellency, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the President of the Republic of Zambia, to the Zambia Correctional Services (ZCS) to treat inmates with dignity.
The guidance by President Lungu when he swore in the ZCS Commissioner-General, Dr. Chisela Chileshe to respect the rights and dignity of inmates is extremely significant, particularly that it is coming from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces under which the ZCS falls.
Above all, the Commission is welcoming that statement because it is consistent with the Government’s human rights obligations and President Lungu’s demonstrable commitment to respecting the rights of inmates while at the same time acknowledging the numerous historical challenges facing the inmates. The pardoning of inmates under his Constitutional Prerogative of Mercy Powers, commuting of death sentences to life imprisonments and construction of modern Correctional Facilities are some of the practical steps that President Lungu has taken in promoting and protecting the rights of inmates.
Therefore, the public statement by the President that “for me, incarceration of a human being doesn’t entail loss of human dignity…” while directing Dr. Chileshe to find innovative ways of improving the dignity of the more than 21,000 inmates across the country demonstrates the continued high political commitment to protecting human rights, particularly the rights of inmates.
Indeed that Executive Commitment to promoting and protecting human rights could not have come at a better time than during the countdown to the International Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Zambia will hold at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka on 10th December 2018.
The Commission agrees with President Lungu that there has been improvements in some Correctional Facilities in the recent past and that more still needed to be done for Zambia to meet the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of ‘Prisoners’, which the UN revised and renamed as The Mandala Rules in 2015.
Therefore, there is need for scaling up the infrastructure development programme of modernising and constructing new Correctional Facilities to ensure that inmates are kept in habitable conditions. The current state of dilapidated, which are punitive in design, must quickly be phased out.
Therefore, the Government transformation agenda of making Correctional Facilities conducive places for counselling, guidance and rehabilitation of those who may have offended society to become better and productive citizens must be encouraged and supported by all.
[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambian (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 to promote and protect Human Rights in Zambia]
Mweelwa Muleya (+260 977 871207)
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION