Mon, 19 Feb 2018 12:31:21 +0000
By CHARLES MUSONDA
THE Human Rights Commission (HRC) is concerned over revelations that some witch-finders, chiefs and their subjects in Kaputa district are engaged in serious human rights abuses.
On Saturday Northern Province Commissioner of Police, Richard Mweene, disclosed to HRC the rampant abuse of human rights by witch-finders in Kaputa when HRC Commissioner Yuyo Kambikambi paid a courtesy call on him.
According to a statement issued by HRC principal information officer Simon Mulumbi, Mr. Mweene noted that there was strong belief in witchcraft among residents of Kaputa and incidences of hiring witch finders to know the cause of one’s death or illness were prevalent.
“The hired witch-finders extort fines from subjects who they suspect of practicing witchcraft and traditional leaders do not seem to care. Some suspects are whipped, enslaved or victimised,” Mr. Mweene said.
Mr. Mweene’s particular concern was that in most cases the elderly were targeted and abused on suspicions of witchcraft because of their advanced age.
Commenting on Mr. Mweene’s revelations, Ms. Kambikambi said there was need to ensure protection of those being targeted on witchcraft suspicions from abuse of human rights, exploitation and cruel or degrading treatment.
“Many violations can occur to those who are suspected of practicing witchcraft, including destruction of property, loss of life and eviction from the very areas where they live and, as such, they need to be protected by the law”, she said.
It is an offence under the Witchcraft Act CAP 90 of the Laws of Zambia to conduct witch finding sessions, let alone to name anyone as a witch or wizard. The offence is punishable by imprisonment if one is found guilty.
Ms. Kambikambi appealed to traditional leaders, as custodians of the Zambian traditions and customs, to take the lead in discouraging practices such as witch-finding, which were against the law and repugnant to human rights norms.
She also called on the Zambia Police Service to join forces with the HRC in sensitising communities in Kaputa and other parts of Northern Province on the need to respect human rights and the law prohibiting witchcraft.
Ms. Kambikambi was pleased that attempts were being made by the police provincial command to transform the police from a force to a service through continuous and professional training of police officers in basic principles of human rights and law enforcement.
She reiterated the need for the police to observe the highest standards of professionalism and use non-violent means in carrying out policing duties as it was a service now.
The HRC delegation led by Ms. Kambikambi visited Northern Province as part of its efforts to engage various stakeholders to build partnerships necessary for the promotion and protection of human rights in Zambia.