Zambia, Kabwe: The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) strongly condemns the alleged torture of a suspect to death at Mkushi Police Station in Central Province on 19th November 2023.
The reported torturing to death of Allan Sikalango, aged 37 years, at Mkushi Police Station is a grave crime and a violation of human rights, which calls for the punishment of perpetrators and the compensation of the family of the deceased in order to end impunity.
The Commission will thoroughly investigate the reported violation to come up with impartial and credible findings that will contribute to a fair and just action and decision. So far, preliminary investigations indicate that the deceased, who was a resident of Itala Compound in Mkushi, was picked up by the police together with three others and taken to Mkushi Police Station where he was reportedly subjected to severe beating during interrogations.
The Commission has been informed that the suspect could hardly walk on his own from the interrogation room when he was taken back into the police cell.
It would appear that the suspect died in the police cell moments after coming from an interrogation room, but other inmates thought that he was still recuperating from severe beating and agreed to “give him time to rest”. It was only when they tried to wake him up so that he could eat that they discovered that he had actually died.
The Commission wishes to commend the Zambia National Service for swiftly acting to protect life and property from the irate residents who wanted to riot against the death of the suspect at the reported hands of police officers.
The death of the suspect at Mkushi Police Station is just one of several such heinous cases of torture, which render credence to the campaign by the Commission for the enactment of a law that criminalises torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The failure of the Government to enact an anti-torture law gives an impression of tacit approval of torture as an acceptable means of carrying out investigations and interrogations by law enforcement officers, thereby leading to deaths and permanent disabilities of suspects.
Zambia made a historical milestone on 23rd December 2022 when President Hakainde Hichilema abolished the death penalty, which effectively meant that there are no longer any more judicial killings in Zambia. It is, therefore, ironic and acceptable that the country should be experiencing extra-judicial killings through acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The right to protection against torture is an absolute right at international, regional and national levels. Therefore, the government should take practical measures aimed at outlawing and effectively punishing acts of torture.
Torture is not a mere act of assault, but “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession…”
Therefore, the Commission calls on the Government, through the Ministry of Justice, to immediately start the process of enacting a comprehensive law that criminalises torture in Zambia to send a strong message that Zambia is a torture-free zone and upholds the sanctity of life.