Commonwealth by liaoqinmei



      A Presentation by the Acting
    Chairperson, Zambia Human Rights
    Commission on the Commission, its
      Achievements and Challenges
   The Zambian Human Rights Commission was
    established under Zambia’s 1996 Constitution
    following a recommendation of an Ad hoc
    Commission of Inquiry appointed in 1993 to
    examine the human rights situation in Zambia and
    specifically to investigate allegations of torture
    in Zambia’s 1st and 2nd Republics (i.e. in the period
    prior to the re-introduction of a plural political
    system in 1991);

   The Commission then headed by a Judge of the
    Supreme Court of Zambia, commenced its
    operations on 4th April, 1997 following the
    appointment of its first Commissioners who at
    the time were appointed on a full time basis.
• Is established under Article 125 of the Constitution of
  Zambia and its functions and powers are contained in the
  Human Rights Commission Act No. 39, 1996 of the Laws of

• The Act establishes the Commission as an autonomous body
  which, in the performance of its duties, is not subject to the
  direction or control of any person or authority.

• The Act provides:
    For the appointment of Seven (7) Commissioners: a
     Chairperson, a Vice Chairperson and five other
     Commissioners by the President of the Republic of Zambia
     subject to ratification by the National Assembly for a
     renewable period of 3 years. ;
    For the appointment of staff, advisors and other experts
     as the Commission thinks fit.
        The Commission Cont…
• The first set of Commissioners who served on the
  Commission were appointed on a full time basis from 1997
  to 2003.

• On 6th April, 2004, the second and current set of
  Commissioners were sworn into office by the President on a
  part time basis.

• The Chairperson, who has since been appointed Attorney
  General was a Legal Practitioner and Law Lecturer at the
  University of Zambia.

• The Vice Chairperson, who is currently the Acting
  Chairperson, is also a Legal Practitioner.

• The other new Commissioners are, a retired Civil Servant, a
  Veteran Journalist and Broadcaster, a local businessman, a
  Pastor and a re-appointee from the first set of
  Commissioners (who unfortunately is now deceased)
   The Commission Committees
• Section 15 of the HRC Act empowers the Commission
  to establish committees to whom certain functions
  can be delegated.
• Soon after coming into existence in 1997, the
  Commission set up committees to assist it in the
  discharge of its functions.
• These committees act as working groups and are
  headed by a commissioner.
• Currently, the Commission has five Thematic
  Committees centred around a number of priority
  areas. These are the:
     Children’s Rights Committee;
     Committee against Torture;
     Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee;
     Civil and Political Rights Committee; and
     Gender Equality Committee.
• The committees’ membership may include persons
  other than commissioners and members of staff.
• The Act empowers the Commission to appoint a Director, Deputy
  Director and such other staff as it may consider necessary.

• In order to carry out its mandate the Commission has established
  three departments and two section which carry out various
  functions as follows:

• Investigations and Legal Services Department

• Information, Education and Training Department

• Research and Planning Department

• Human Resource and Administration Section

• Finance and Accounting Section
• The Commission was established as the
  national focal point institution for the
  promotion and protection of human
  rights in Zambia.
• The Commission’s functions are:
   Educative; and

• The core functions and powers of the
  Commission are provided for under
  Sections 9 and 10 of the Human
  Rights Commission Act No. 39 of
  1996 respectively.
• To investigate human rights violations

• To investigate any mal administration of justice

• To propose effective measures to prevent human rights abuses.

• To visit prisons and other places of detention and related
  facilities with a view to assessing and inspecting conditions of
  the persons held in such places and make recommendations to
  redress existing problems.

• To establish a continuing programme of research, education,
  information and rehabilitation of victims of human rights abuse
  to enhance the respect for and protection of human rights.

• To do all such things as are incidental or conducive to the
  attainment of the functions of the Commission.
•      To investigate any human rights abuses either on:
    1.   Its own initiative
    2.   On receipt of a complaint or allegation under the Act by:

    a)     an aggrieved person acting in such persons own interest.
    b)     an association acting in the interest of its members
    c)     a person acting on behalf of and/or in the interest of a
           group of persons.

•        To issue summons or orders requiring the attendance of
         any authority before the Commission
•        To issue summons for the production of any document
         relevant to any investigation by the Commission.
•        To question any person on any subject matter under
         investigation before the Commission.
•        To require any person to disclose any information within
         such person’s knowledge relevant to any investigation by
         the Commission.
 Powers of the Commission cont…
• To make the following recommendations:
• The punishment of any officer found by the
  Commission to have perpetuated an abuse of human
• The release of any person from detention
• The payment of compensation to a victim of human
  rights abuse, or to such victim’s family
• That an aggrieved person seeks redress in a court of
• Such other action as it considers necessary to
  remedy the infringement of a right.
• Note: The Commission has no powers to handle
  matters that are pending before a court of law.
• The Commission has since its inception, scored
  a number of successes each of which has
  carried with it its own set of challenges.
• There are also a number of challenges the
  Commission is still grappling with, most of which
  the Commission believes are common to other
  Commissions and National Human Rights
  Institutions working within the region.
            Protective Function
•   The Commission has established the following
    mechanisms for the effective protection of human rights:

•   Receipt and Successful investigation and conclusion of
    complaints of human rights violations

•   A database of all complaints received has been
    established to keep consistent and accurate records. (The
    Commission has computerized its complaints register.
    This has enhanced investigations, maintenance of
    accurate records and quick retrieval of information and
    preparation of reports).

•   Establishment of (an informal, but working) referral
    system were it refers matters it cannot deal with to
    relevant institutions and vice versa.
      Protection Function cont…
•   Successful conduction of Prisons Visitations: the Commission
    has visited prisons nationwide and produced reports on its findings
    and made recommendations and submitted them to the relevant
•   The visits have resulted among other things in improved working
    relations between the Commission and prison authorities and in
    the treatment of prisoners by their custodians (owing to their
    changing attitudes following interactions with the Commission);
•   The Commission has also been able to get members of the press
    to accompany it on these visits;
•   Investigated and established allegations of torture against
    attempted coup plotters – leading to the establishment of a
    Commission of Inquiry;
•   Establishment of a Prohibited Immigrants‟ Fund-to help with the
    quick repatriation of foreign nationals detained for their unlawful
    entry/stay into the country (the project has since come to a close).
        Protective Function:
    Challenges and Experiences
• Limited funding and the „working environment‟
  does not allow the Commission to conduct its
  prison visits in the recommended manner i.e.
  regular and/or impromptu/unannounced visits
  (and) with the all necessary personnel such as
  commission staff, medical and social welfare
• Getting government and its agencies to
  implement the Commission‟s recommendations
  in a timely fashion
       Protective Function:
Challenges and Experiences Cont..
• A number of the human rights violations
  revealed in the Prison visitations are not
  necessarily willful on the part of the state but as
  a result of limited abilities/capacities/and/or
  facilities within the criminal justice system e.g.
    Prolonged and/or unlawful detentions;
    Incidents of torture (on arrest of in the course of police
    Failure to separate juvenile offenders from adult
     offenders held by the state
    Congestion in prisons resulting in inhumane living
     conditions for prisoners
• Members of the general public do not generally
  have a clear understanding of the Commission‟s
  mandate and its limitations e.g.
• Recently received a complaint from a woman
  complaining that she her late husband‟s family
  were not willing to assist her with seed;
• Have received complaints from parents
  demanding either respect or financial support (or
  both) from their children.
Human Rights Sensitisation and Education:
• Countrywide Human Rights Sensitisation activities such as
  workshops, trainings and discussions for various
  categories of people have been held to inform people of
  their human rights and to educate potential human rights
  abusers. Some exercises undertaken included among
  many others:

•   Sensitisation and education of :
     Law Enforcement Agencies; (Police, Wildlife Officers);
     Teachers, Curriculum developers and other Educational
     Health Workers;
     Heads of Government Departments in selected
     Political Parties
• Radio Discussion programs for the general
   In both English and the major local languages;
   On both National Television and Radio and on
    Community Radio Stations around the country;

• Commemorations of international human rights
  days have also been used as an opportunity to
  sensitise the public on particular rights (and
  groups entitled to the said rights)
        Promotional Function:
      Challenges & Experiences
• Commemoration of international days has
  served not only as an opportunity to sensitise
  the public but have also helped the Commission
  in strengthening its collaborative efforts and
  interactions with NGOs particularly in the
• Some aspects of human rights education are
  viewed negatively by members of the general
  public – in the case of women and children they
  feel human rights have encouraged indiscipline
      Promotional Function:
 Challenges & Experiences Cont..
• Individuals would like to claim their rights
  but not the related responsibilities;

• Application, enjoyment and enforcement of
  human rights is subjected to religious and
  traditional beliefs and practices (as
  indicated in the case of women and
  children previously)
• The Commission has successfully carried out the following
  advisory functions:
• Appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Legal
  Affairs, Governance, Human Rights and Gender Matters and
  made submissions among others, on:
    The Electoral Bill No. 12 of 2006;
    Human Trafficking;
    Internally Displaced Persons;

• Assisted in the state reporting process- the Commission had
  the opportunity to make a statement before the Committee on
  Racial Discrimination at its consideration of Zambia‟s last
  report in mid 2006.
• Holding of press briefings and issuing press statements on
  human rights issues of particular public interest/concern
• Recommending the release of terminally ill patients (for
  themselves and also to decongest the prisons)
          Advisory Function:
     Challenges and Experiences
• The Commission is not as effective in this
  function as Commissions in the region that have
  it clearly spelt out in their enabling legislation;
• The Commission needs to strengthen its
  research function in order to make this function
  more effective and efficient;
• State Reporting Process: it has been a
  challenge to get the state to understand the
  Commission‟s “watchdog” role in the process as
  opposed to the state thinking this is the
  Commission‟s primary responsibility on behalf of
  the state (situation has improved)
  Quasi Judicial Competence
• Section 12 of the HRC Act empowers the
  Commission to conduct public hearings
  and sit as a quasi judicial tribunal to
  consider complaints-the Commission
  regularly exercises the function and in
  addition it has in practice also included
  mediation and conciliation as amicable
  and quick methods of settling some
    Quasi Judicial Competence:
     Challenges & Experiences
• Commission can only make recommendations:
  despite most of recommendations being
  implemented it is often viewed as a “toothless”
• Where parties are represented by Legal Counsel
  –they are the least willing to implement the
  Commission‟s recommendations;
• Mediation and conciliation have been applied
  the Commission mostly in case relating to
  traditional chiefs and their subjects (eviction of
  subjects from land by the chiefs)
• Enhanced Accessibility of the Commission: with
  the assistance of cooperating partners the
  Commission has opened offices in 5 provincial
  centres – it hopes to open another office before
  the end of the year in the North-western
  Province of Zambia
• Capacity Building: training has been conducted
  to enhance the capacity of the Commission‟s
• Achieved ICC Status A
• Commission is in the process of finalising its
  new Strategic Plan
• Partnership and Collaboration: the Commission
  has embarked on a number of collaborative
  efforts to enhance its capacity to deliver on its
   Currently it is collaborating with the press and
     local NGOs on Advocating for the domestication
     of ratified treaties and on the Implementation of
     Treaty Body Recommendations;
   Embarking on a collaborative effort with
     Community Radio Stations for Human Rights
• Limited and/or Funding
• Transport
• Staffing levels: Commission is currently
  functioning at 30% of the establishment (lacking
  most middle management and professional
• Commissioners being part-time
• Strict adherence to our National Plan of Action is
  hampered by all the above limitations

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