……. As police officers are deployed to enforce public health regulations and guidelines on COVID-19

By Bennie Mundando

THE Human Rights Commission (HRC) has implored the Zambia Police to strictly adhere to their own Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) during the enforcement of Public Health Regulations and the presidential guidelines on the COVID-19 pandemic.

HRC spokesperson Mweelwa Muleya says the resolution by Cabinet yesterday to deploy police officers to enforce public health regulations and guidelines on COVID-19 is a welcome move because it is in line with Zambia’s multi-sectorial response to the coronavirus called Zambia COVID-19 preparedness and response programme.

Mr. Muleya however says police officers have an obligation to strictly adhere to the recently developed SOPs for the Zambia Police Service which stipulates the guidelines on how they should execute their duties as they contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the Zambia COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Programme.

He says all law enforcement officers are in particular required to respect the rights and dignity of all persons and that this means that officers should never resort to acts of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals not adhering to the regulations and guidelines.

“Officers must also respect the fundamental human rights principle of equality and non-discrimination during the enforcement of the public health regulations and guidelines.

“On the other hand, members of the public must know and respect the fact that during this period of public health global pandemic, law enforcement officers have legitimate powers to, among other measures, enforce restrictions on movements, public gatherings prohibition or restriction on trade or vending and to stop any other illegal activities that may undermine the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Commission wishes to reiterate the fact that COVID-19 pandemic is real and is ravaging lives. Therefore, there is need for reinforced response against its spread by combining public awareness and enforcement mechanisms in order to save lives,” Mr. Muleya said.

He says the Commission is calling upon the Government to decentralize COVID-19 pandemic fund to District councils, District Health Offices and Police Stations to scale up public awareness on, and adherences to public health regulations and guidelines.

He says the Commission commends the Zambia Police Service for being pro-active by developing SOPs for its officers with financial and technical support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and also technical support from the Human Rights Commission.

“However, the Commission is concerned that the capacity building of officers and the distribution of the SOPs to officers countrywide may be overtaken by the deployment of officers in the field and this may result in violation of human rights due to lack of standardised procedures and practices among the officers.

“The Commission is therefore calling upon the Zambia Police Service Command to accelerate capacity building of officers and dissemination of the SOPs in order to achieve the noble objective of standardising procedures and practices among all officers during the enforcement of regulations and guidelines on COVID 19 pandemic,” he said.

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