The decision by Zambia to abolish the death penalty is “a historic milestone’, the UN team in the country said on Friday in a statement.
President Hakainde Hichilema announced the move on 23 December, which “followed years of advocacy efforts by concerned stakeholders, such as the National Human Rights Commission, civil society groups, development partners, the UN team and other partners,” it said.
The UN team in Zambia is led by Resident Coordinator Beatrice Mutali.
Several UN entities there contributed to the milestone by providing a wide range of technical support to the authorities.
Support for rights review
For example, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN human rights office (OHCHR) assisted the country with preparation for the UN Human Rights Council‘s Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR), including the fourth review scheduled for this year.
The UPR process was established in 2006 to review the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. It is conducted by a Working Group that meets three times a year, with 14 countries reviewed each session.
The abolition of the death penalty has been consistently included in the first, second and third periodic reviews, as a key subject.
‘Breakthrough moment’ in May
President Hichilema took office in August 2021, and a “breakthrough moment” occurred the following May when the leader and the new Zambian Government pledged to abolish the death penalty and work with parliament to this end, the statement said.
Since then, the UN team has stepped up its advocacy efforts, which culminated in the celebration of International Human Rights Day with government partners in December.
The UN team also supported the review, amendment and enactment of ordinary laws, including the Penal Code and Public Order Act, also contributing to the recent repeal of the defamation of the President as a criminal offence.
The UN and the Zambian Government also recently signed a new roadmap for the partnership covering the next five years.
“With this UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, the country team will continue to support the government’s efforts to consolidate democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” said the statement.