Police used excessive force on UNZA students – HRC

University of Zambia student Lizwe Ndhlovu
University of Zambia student Lizwe Ndhlovu

THE Human Rights Commission (HRC) has said police last Friday used excessive force in quelling the protest by University of Zambia (UNZA) students.
Police fought running battles at the UNZA Great East Road campus with students who were protesting against delayed payment of meal allowances.
One student, Lizwe Ndhlovu, who is said to have jumped out of a moving police vehicle has remained hospitalised at the University Teaching Hospital.
HRC director Florence Chibwesha said the commission was concerned with the manner police dealt with the protesting students and the continued acts of malicious damage on private citizens by the students during protests.
Preliminary report of the investigations carried out by the Commission has revealed that the Police did use excessive force on the students.
Ms Chibwesha said it was regrettable that the police threw teargas canisters into the university clinic, a health facility that had patients being attended to at the time of the protest with an allegation of one patient being taken into police custody.
“The Commission condemns these acts by the police in the strongest terms. Acts of violence by the Police reinforces mistrust between the police and the general public. Law enforcement officers are there to keep law and order and this should not de-generate into violence. It calls for assertive policing as opposed to police brutality,” she said.
The Commission appealed to the police to adopt assertive policing methods and better management skills of handling public protests as opposed to the use of excessive force.
It is important for the police to continue equipping their officers with appropriate and high quality skills of managing public protests.
Ms Chibwesha observed that the commission recognised the important role the police played in suppressing disturbances which threaten life and property through acceptable means and thereby maintaining social order in the nation.
The Commission is hopeful that the police command would investigate the alleged police brutality with the necessary speed and ensure action is taken against those that will be found wanting.
The HRC director said acts of violence by University students on members of the public could also not be condoned.
“It is unacceptable that students believe that they are justified in causing malicious damage to property of private citizens as a way of resolving their grievances. Such conduct must be condemned by all,” she added.
The constitutional right to demonstrate as a way of expressing oneself guaranteed by the freedom of speech and assembly comes with the pre-requisite of it being exercised in a peaceful manner.
Violent protests and use of excessive force should be regarded as a serious violation of basic human rights and can threaten rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.