THE detention of an eight-year-old boy at the Matero Police Station in Lusaka has not only shocked the nation, but also a damning indictment against the Zambia Police Service for not adhering to professional standards.
We do not think the police officers at Matero are so ignorant of the law relating to children who are in conflict with the law that they do not know how they ought to be treated.
It makes sad reading that the police officers, for reasons best known to themselves saw it fit to lock a minor in a cell with adults overnight which is clearly illegal.
What the public want to know is what disciplinary measures will be taken against the officers at Matero Police Station for abusing the eight-year-old child.
No explanation from the Police Command will impress the public that the officers acted in a professional manner. It was cruelty at its worst.
The state of police cells is not something to sing home about and certainly no parent would ever want their child to be locked up.
We are glad that the Human Rights Commission (HRC) has condemned in its strongest terms the detention of little boy at Matero Police Station as such acts are unlawful and a gross violation of the rights of the child.
Mr Mweelwa Muleya, the Human Rights Commission spokesperson has said the commission considered the detention of the child on an alleged offence of being in possession of a sharp instrument while fighting with another child as not only unlawful but also disproportionate, unreasonable, unnecessary and unjustified in a democratic country.
Mr Muleya noted that the detention of the boy was unlawful because under the Children’s Code Act, No. 12 of 2022, the age of criminal responsibility of a child was 12 years and above.
“A child below the age of 12 years is not criminally liable for any act or omission. Therefore, it was unlawful to detain an eight-year-old boy,” he said.
Not even the circumstances that led to the minor being taken to the police station and being detained warrant the ordeal he had to go through.
Mr Muleya, also noted that the HRC considered the detention of the child on an alleged offence of being in possession of a sharp instrument while fighting with another child as not only unlawful but also disproportionate, unreasonable, unnecessary and unjustified.
In this vein, we join the HRC in calling on the police command and other investigative wings to get to the bottom of what could have motivated the officers to detain the boy, including investigating the serious criminal allegation of seeking payment in exchange for the freedom of the boy.
The Children’s Code Act is quite explicit about the rights of a child which limit the negative effects of confinement by minimising the impact of a finding of guilty on the family of a child in conflict with the law and facilitate the re-integration of the child in conflict with the law into society.
It also among others provide for the establishment of child approved centres and child reformatory centres.”
As Mr Muleya noted, the Children’s Code Act provided that detaining a child should be the last resort and if there were imperative circumstances warranting the restriction of the right to liberty of the child – and certainly not in a police cell.
Maybe Inspector General of Police Graphel Musamba should explain whether the service have their own “professional” handbook that they follow religiously to uphold law and order as per their mandate.