Tue, 20 Feb 2018 11:36:56 +0000
By CHARLES MUSONDA
THE Human Rights Commission (HRC) has welcomed the pronouncement by State House that President Lungu has political will to support enactment of the Access to Information (ATI) Bill.
In a statement issued in Lusaka yesterday, HRC spokesperson Mwelwa Muleya said the commitment to enact the ATI Bill was one of the 90 recommendations accepted by the Zambian Government out of the 203 recommendations that were made by the United Nations Member States during the Periodic Re- view Process (UPR) on November 13, 2017 in Geneva.
Mr. Muleya said it was there- fore encouraging that there was continued expression of commit- ment at the highest political level to meet Zambia’s national and international human rights obli- gation in that area.
He said HRC’s expectation was that the draft Bill would be availed to key stakeholders for a
final review before being tabled in Parliament. “The specific recommendation [No. 6.49], which the Zambia Government accepted during the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council Work- ing Group on the UPR was ‘to engage civil society, activists, NGOs and the media in dialogue to seek common ground on the draft Access to Information Bill and governance issues, such as corruption’. “The HRC is willing to facilitate dialogue to- wards implementing this recom- mendation aimed at promoting good governance and improved service delivery. The HRC also calls for improved efforts to- wards reforming the Public Or- der Act (POA) and ensuring that it is applied without any form of discrimination,” Mr. Muleya
said. He said it was HRC’s view that applying the POA fairly did not require legal reforms.
“Applying any law such as the POA is an administrative action that is within the powers of the Zambia Police Service to exercise in line with their constitutional mandate to uphold the Bill of Rights. The right to freedom of assembly is enshrined under Article 21 of Zambia’s Bill of Rights and various regional and international human rights instruments which Zambia ratified to respect and uphold.
“The HRC is encouraged that the enactment of a revised POA is one of the Government’s commitment to improve citizen engagement and participation under the Seventh National De- velopment Plan. The HRC will
continue to collaborate with the Government towards reforming the POA to realise Zambia’s constitutional and international human rights obligations,” he said.
Meanwhile, the HRC has condemned the attacking of United Party for National Development (UPND) supporters by some Patriotic Front (PF) supporters in Sinda district.
Mr. Muleya said the attack was a violation of the right to freedom of association and a criminal act that should attract penal sanctions.
“We wish to urge the Zambia Police Service to arrest the perpetrators and prosecute them in the courts of law to end impunity in assaulting political opponents.”