Africa

Zambia's 'substandard prisons violate human rights'

Chairman of Human Rights Commission says Zambian prisons do not meet international human rights standards

18.05.2017
Zambia's 'substandard prisons violate human rights'

By Francis Maingaila

LUSAKA, Zambia

Zambian prisons do not comply with internationally accepted human rights standards, thus violating the rights of inmates, both convicted and awaiting trial, including "circumstantial children" living in prisons, according to the chairman of the Human Rights Commission on Wednesday.

Mudford Mwandanga told journalists at an EU-sponsored media training workshop that the prisons in the southern African country were so overcrowded that it was undermining the inmates' right to health.

The chairman said that the total population of prisoners in Zambia was over 25,000, almost three times the holding capacity, which stands at 8,250.

"Of the 25,000, 7,000 are remandees, while the population of circumstantial children aged between 6 months to 1 year is 250," he said.

Circumstantial children are those who were either born in prison to convicted mothers, or living in prison with their mothers who were convicted of some criminal offense.

Mwadanga also noted the lack of physical separation between convicted prisoners and remandees waiting for their cases to be heard and determined in a court of law.

"In some cases, convicted juvenile offenders and those young people still undergoing trial, including prohibited immigrants are grouped together with convicted hard-core criminals," he said.

Besides torture which is widespread in Zambian prisons, inmates are also either denied food in terms of quality and quantity or are only fed once a day, Mwadanga added.

According to the chairman, lack of compliance with internationally accepted standards is tantamount to giving double punishment to inmates, especially those still awaiting trial.

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