Zambian police tortured 79 coup suspects

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The Independent Online

Shocking cases of police torture against 79 people suspected of mounting a failed coup in Zambia have been uncovered by a commission of inquiry and published by the government. The commission has recommended compensation to the victims of some 650m kwacha (£122,000).

Shocking cases of police torture against 79 people suspected of mounting a failed coup in Zambia have been uncovered by a commission of inquiry and published by the government. The commission has recommended compensation to the victims of some 650m kwacha (£122,000).

The commission report into the treatment of suspects arrested following the 1997 coup attempt reveals that police torture included electric shocks, suffocation, sexual harassment, and beating people with wire cables, steel rods and rifle butts.

One of the worst forms was called akampelwa (swing), and entailed suspending a suspect from an iron bar and beating him as he swung from side to side. Many victims were unable to stand or walk afterwards, and had to crawl or be supported back to their cells.

Among those tortured and recommended for compensation was Dean Mungomba, the opposition leader. The commission also recommended that 21 senior police officers implicated in the torture be retired immediately, among them the deputy police commissioner, Emmanuel Lukonde, and a chief superintendent, Biemba Musole.

In its statement, the government admits the police torture but criticises the commission for not highlighting the circumstances surrounding the coup investigations. It also refuses to pay the level of damages recommended or to retire the senior policemen, arguing that the evidence against them is questionable.

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