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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Better Policing (Police Torture)

Another update to the "Rethinking Justice : Better Policing" that highlights the urgency for further reforms. It appears not only are the police keen to detain innocents, they continue significant brutality :

Police beating leaves accountant on crutches, Prudence Phiri, The Post, Report:

The police in this country are meant to enforce legislated laws, maintain law and order. However in executing their duties, the men and women in uniform override the legislature and operate as if they are above the law. Being the first point of reporting any form of crime, police feel they hold the ultimate powers for justice to prevail.

Zambian police have even nicknamed themselves ‘Boma’ meaning government.  With the embracement of the ‘Boma’ nickname, police have subjected sometimes innocent (until proven guilty) citizens to brutality and harassment. One such victim is George Saminganja an assistant accountant at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH). Saminganja who was once able bodied, now walks on crutches after police officers brutally beat him and broke his leg in a case that would have been resolved without any beatings.

Saminganja narrated that on March 19, 2010 on his way home after a drinking spree at Kabwata’s Break Point bar; he was arrested and brutally beaten for an alleged road traffic offence. “I was going home around 22:00 hours after a drink with my friends at Kabwata Break Point. My car was parked opposite the filling station near Break Point on Chilumbulu Road. I started the engine in order to reverse into Chilumbulu Road but just before I got back into Chilumbulu, someone hit on top of my car claiming I had hit into his car. I switched off the engine and came out of the car and asked the man where I had hit his car. After I checked my car behind for a dent, which I didn’t see,” he narrated.

Saminganja said he checked the other man’s vehicle but did not see any dent. He said as the two were arguing, a policeman in uniform and others in plain clothes appeared on the scene. “A policeman in uniform and others in plain clothes came on the scene and I briefed them on what happened,” he said. "One of the them asked me for my car keys so that we could go to the police station for further investigation, I got surprised as to why they asked for my car keys without writing any full details of what they had seen but I finally gave the keys to one of them,” said Saminganja.

Saminganja said before leaving the scene, he exchanged bitter words with the police. “I told them it’s not for the alleged complainant to let me know that I had hit his car, I would have heard the bang myself and would have stopped to check what I had hit into,” he said.

He said before leaving, the people in plain clothes started beating him and later an officer in uniform also joined in beating him. “One of them slapped me, I was hit and fell to the ground, I equally lost my temper and tried to defend myself but I was overpowered,” he narrated.

Saminganja said he identified one person and pleaded for his help but all in vain.

“Upon seeing that the beatings were too much I tried to escape but they followed me and continued beating me and handcuffed me,”

Saminganja said upon reaching Kabwata police station, he pleaded with the officers to let him seek medical attention as he was in pain but the police officers refused to let him go to the hospital and instead detained him. “I was put in cells without the police recording any statement and the police officers ordered the other inmates to ill-treat me.” he said.

Saminganja said he was released the following morning after his wife secured his release. “I was released the following morning and I was told to sign a police bond and pay K300, 000 which I promised to pay later,” he said. “According to police, I had a case of assaulting police officers.”

Saminganja said he then asked police if he could see the officer he allegedly assaulted but was told the officer was not available. He said he was told to report on April 21 to meet the officer he allegedly assaulted. Saminganja said he realised later the police officer that recorded his statement fooled him because his statement was written behind the police car pack under a shelter. “In fact he took my said statement behind the police car park, under a shelter, which is not in line with their normal police procedure,” Saminganja said.

He said after been released, he was taken to UTH where his X-ray indicated a broken bone on the right leg. Saminganja said he also had a deep cut on the right side of his eye that has left a permanent scar. He said because of the broken leg he has been enabled to work for almost three months now.

On April 24, Saminganja said he also opened a docket against the police for brutality. Saminganja said upon realising that no action was been taken, he reported the case to the Police Public Complaints Commission. “On May 10, I lodged and reported in writing my complaints to the Police Complaint Commission but to date they have not communicated to me on any progress,” he said. Saminganja said he had been following up his case with Central Police but no progress had been achieved so far.

In seeking justice Saminganja also intends to take the matter to court and is currently seeking legal advice from the Legal Resource Foundation on the matter. “I have since written a full detailed report to the Legal Resource Foundation on what happened to me,” Saminganja said.

With such reports, with many other unreported one wonders whether the police are truly operating according to their mission statement which states:

“We the Zambia Police are committed to providing high quality service, by upholding and applying the law fairly and firmly to all. We will apply pro-active methods to prevent crime, arrest those who break the law and take them to court and assist victims of crime through counselling.

We are committed to cultivating rapport and partnership with the community. We pledge to respect individual human rights while recogning the community‘s expectations and obligations.

We are committed and we will review our roles and are ready to change our approaches to law enforcement methods where necessary in order to facilitate good democratic governance, while upholding our professional standards and ethics.

The service through this mission will strive to promote and supplement the overall efforts that are aimed at bringing crime levels to their minimal levels.”

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