By TIMES REPORTER –
AMNESTY International Secretary General Salil Shetty has appealed to President Edgar Lungu to uphold human rights of all, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, the organization said today after their meeting.
Mr Shetty, who met with President Lungu at State House on Monday during his high-level mission to Zambia, said he reinforced the need for the Government to respect and protect fundamental human rights.
“Zambia is facing a number of human rights challenges. Police constantly use the vague and overly broad provisions of the Public Order Act to limit the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The recent threatened state of emergency was a low point,” Mr Shetty said.
“Zambians have everything to gain and nothing to lose from the country’s history of freedoms that has characterized it since independence.”
Mr Shetty alleged that since President Edgar Lungu was re-elected in August 2016, the space for any kind of political dissent or freedom of expression shrank dramatically.
He accused the police of using ‘the vague’ provisions of the Public Order Act and the Penal Code to limit the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
Mr Shetty claimed that in the run-up to the elections in August last year, political campaigning was restricted and the independent media came under attack for its critical reporting of the Government’s activities.
And President Lungu said he held a cordial meeting with Mr Shetty who was accompanied by regional director Deprose Muchena and her deputy in charge of campaigns Muleya Mwananyanda.
President Lungu said the discussion was centred on three main issues which are the death penalty, land acquisition and human rights.
On the death penalty, President Lungu said he made it clear that he does not support it as a deterrent.
“On land, I believe in protecting the poor from displacement by the rich. I will always side with the poor and the disempowered. No investor must displace people without taking care of the communal grazing land. On human rights, I remain committed to upholding human rights and protecting the less privileged. I will ensure that Zambia remains an open society that respects human rights,” President Lungu said.
“During our discussion, I advised Amnesty International to not only take interest in Zambia when a matter involving the rich or powerful people arises but to take a similar interest when human rights issues affect poor people. This is because poor people, by nature, are disempowered and require protection from human rights organisations and the Government.
President Lungu added, “I encourage Amnesty International to work in conjunction with the Human Rights Commission while in Zambia to go all around the country and examine allegations of abuses.”