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Zambian army rebuked over slapping of hecklers

Kennedy Gondwe BBC News, Lusaka

Zambia’s Human Rights Commission has condemned an incident caught on camera that showed government soldiers slapping youths – some of whom look like teenagers – who were under arrest for heckling President Hakainde Hichilema.

They were accused of defaming the president, which can attract a sentence of up to three years in Zambia.

The incident took place last week in Chiengi District in the northern province of Luapula.

In a video that went viral, the youths used expletives at a presidential event to express annoyance at how their lives had not changed since Mr Hichilema’s election last year.

After their arrest and while in handcuffs, armed soldiers can be seen in another video slapping them on their faces.

The army subsequently justified the actions of the soldiers.

But the commission said it was “shocked and gravely concerned at the apparent lack of remorse by the Zambian army”.

“The commission is of the view that even a ‘few slaps’ can and do amount to brutality contrary the position taken by the Zambia army,” said chairperson Mudford Mwandenga.

The youths have not yet been taken to court, but the rights watchdog said it was “closely monitoring the case with a view of ensuring that their rights to liberty and to secure protection of the law are upheld and protected”.

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