Zambia called to account on 'routine' police abuse of detainees

By staff writers
September 7, 2010

Human Rights Watch says the Zambian government needs to call an immediate halt to police abuse of detainees, investigate violations and strengthen grievance mechanisms.

Hanging suspects from the ceiling and beating them to coerce confessions is routine practice for the country's police force, says the NGO.

Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch in New York claims that Zambian police routinely engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, including torture, to extract confessions.

Along with the Prisons Care and Counselling Association, and the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, HRW interviewed prisoners at six prisons throughout Zambia's central corridor during a recent investigation.

The prisoners described to monitors what happened to them in police custody, before they were transferred to custody.

Dozens of detainees 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 government needs to call an immediate halt to police abuse, investigate violations, and strengthen grievance mechanisms," Rona Peligal.

The 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 has declared.

Several former police detainees still bore the scars from the abuse at the time of their interviews; many reported suffering serious long-term health consequences. Inmates showed researchers their misshapen fingers - a result of being smashed by hammers and iron bats - and scars on their feet and hands resulting from beatings with police batons.

Two inmates had lost their vision as a result of blows to the head, while others complained of chronic pain and swelling resulting from repeated beatings to their legs without subsequent medical treatment.

The revelations came as part of research into the health conditions in six Zambian prisons, between September 2009 and February 2010.

Human Rights Watch said this week that it presented its findings and concerns in letters to the minister of home affairs and the inspector general of police in June and August 2010, but received no response.

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Keywords:zambia | detainees
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