U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 3, 2017, released the 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The country-specific Human Rights Reports are documents the U.S. Congress, by law, requires the State Department to prepare annually and make public. The reports cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. U.S. embassies compile Human Rights Reports with help from host governments, local NGOs, and other members of civil society and use them to work with governments to improve their human rights records. The United States, of course, has its own human rights issues; the publication of the annual reports is intended to reflect U.S. commitment to the advancement of human rights around the world.
The U.S. government in 2016 observed serious human rights problems in several areas in Zambia, especially as they pertained to restrictions on media freedom. We noted several instances in which officials closed, censored, or initiated legal action against radio, print, and internet media outlets over pieces considered to be critical of the president, government, or ruling party. The Embassy also observed several instances of journalists being arrested, threatened, or beaten during the year.
We remain worried about political violence, which we have highlighted as a serious human rights issue in this report. The U.S. government also continues to be concerned over reports of restrictions on freedom of assembly, including especially that police in the lead-up to the 2016 general election continued to misapply the Public Order Act to block opposition or other gatherings, citing a nonexistent requirement for a permit to assemble, rather than what is actually legally required, i.e., prior notification.
The report also documented other significant human rights problems during the year in further detail. These included:
- Abuses by police, including reports of unlawful killings, torture, and beatings;
- Gender-based violence (GBV);
- Life-threatening prison conditions;
- Arbitrary arrest;
- Prolonged pretrial detention;
- Arbitrary interference with privacy;
- Displacement of landowners;
- Government corruption;
- Child abuse;
- Trafficking in persons;
- Discrimination against persons with disabilities and minority communities; and
- Child labor
The United States is committed to working together with the government and people of Zambia to address human rights concerns in Zambia and globally. That includes U.S. support for Zambian initiatives to promote the rule of law, press freedom, police professionalism, and other human rights issues. As we have previously stated, the U.S. government takes no sides in Zambia’s internal political debates, but rather sides with the Zambian people and their constitutional rights.
Some examples of recent U.S.-Zambia programs to address human rights concerns are:
- Continued leadership on health issues, including the fight against HIV/AIDS, demonstrated through the U.S. government’s $403 million commitment in fiscal year 2017.
- Support for Zambians expressing their franchise in the 2016 general election, including over $4 million in total assistance to civil society monitoring groups and to the Electoral Commission of Zambia; and
- Continued collaboration with the Human Rights Commission, including planned work that aims to strengthen Zambia’s UN Universal Periodic Review processes and to promote dialogue and better implementation of the Public Order Act.
The U.S. government appreciates its ongoing dialogue with the Zambian government about internationally recognized human rights that both our nations have pledged to uphold. These are important commitments we make with all our citizens. We firmly believe both the United States and Zambia are more secure in a world where governments protect their peoples’ rights and freedoms.
The full report is available at https://zm.usembassy.gov/our-relationship/official-reports/.