September 7, 2010

Police torture inmates, says Human Right Watch

Zambia’s Ggovernment must call a halt to police abuse and torture in the country's prisons, and punish the officials involved, the New York-based rights body Human Rights Watch urged. In a report on prison conditions, the rights watchdog has described how inmates were routinely tortured and subjected to cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of police. "Hanging suspects from the ceiling and beating them to coerce confessions is routine police practice in Zambia," the report said. "The government needs to call an immediate halt to police abuse, investigate violations, and strengthen grievance mechanisms," Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, emphasised.
The interviews were conducted by Human Rights Watch, the Prisons Care and Counselling Association, and the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa as part of research into the health conditions in six Zambian prisons, between September 2009 and February 2010.

Inmates said they had been beaten with metal bars, hammers, broom handles, police batons, sticks, or even electrified rods. "Many said they had been bound first and hung upside down. Female detainees reported that police officers tried to coerce sex in exchange for their release," the report further stated.

„These reports of physical abuse of men, women, and children held in police custody indicate a widespread and systematic pattern of brutality, in some cases rising to the level of torture,“ Human Rights Watch moreover stressed.

Human Rights Watch presented their findings and concerns in letters to the minister of home affairs and the inspector general of police on June 25, 2010, and again requested a response on August 31, but so far received no response. The letters called on government authorities to investigate the brutality against detainees in police custody, and to discipline immediately all officers found to have used force inappropriately against suspects. The letters also called on the police authority to institute special training sessions for police officers on non-coercive methods of interrogation, and to seek increased funding for the authority charged with investigating abuses. (Zambian Watchdog /SADOCC)

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