Open letter to Levy Mwanawasa, President of the Republic of Zambia

Press release
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Mister President,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expresses its deepest concerns with regard to the death sentences confirmed by the Supreme Court of Zambia on 18th December, which were pronounced against 44 soldiers for their role in the 1997 failed coup.

In October 1997, about sixty armed soldiers, leaded by Captain Steven Lungu, attempted to overthrow the former head of State, Frederick Chiluba, but were shortly arrested. 54 soldiers were charged with acts of treason and found guilty by the Zambian High Court, where they were sentenced to death by hanging. They appealed to the Supreme Court. On 18th December 2003, the Supreme Court acquitted 10 of them but sentenced the remaining 44 to the death penalty, who are now on death row at Mukobeko maximum prison in Kabwe, awaiting execution.

The FIDH considers that the death penalty is fundamentally contrary to human dignity, guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its abolition is provided by several international instruments, notably by the Additional Protocol to the International covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR). Moreover, Article 6 of the ICCPR, ratified by Zambia, « also refers generally to abolition in terms which strongly suggest that abolition is desirable. » (General Comment 6 of the Human Rights Committee on Article 6, sixteenth session, 1982).

Moreover, the FIDH wishes to express its concerns with regard to the acts of physical and mental torture committed whilst the suspects were in prison, as stated in the 2001 governmental report. The FIDH recalls that torture is strictly prohibited by Article 7 of the ICCPR, by Article 5 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and by the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, ratified by Zambia.

The FIDH asks you to grant the presidential pardon for the 44 soldiers who were sentenced to death and to adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, in conformity with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Resolution of 15 Novembre 1999.

Yours sincerely,

Sidiki Kaba


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