Constitutional Provisions

The 1996 Constitution of Zambia guarantees the rights to "life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law".Art. 11, 1996 Constitution of Zambia.It is further stipulated that 

a person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this Article if he dies as a result of the use of force to such extent as is reasonably justifiable in the circumstances of the case:

(a) for the defence of any person from violence or for the defence of property;
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
(c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection, mutiny or if he dies as a result of a lawful act of war; 
(d) in order to prevent the commission by that person of a criminal offence.

According to Article 15 of the 1996 Constitution: "No person shall be subjected to torture, or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other like treatment."

Under Article 11, it is recognised and declared that every person in Zambia has been and shall continue to be entitled to freedom of assembly.

The Constitution provides for the establishment of the Zambia Police Force (and such other police forces as Parliament may by law prescribe).Art. 103(1), 1996 Constitution of Zambia.It is stipulated that "every police force in Zambia shall be organised and administered in such a manner and shall have such functions as Parliament may by law prescribe."Art. 103(2), 1996 Constitution of Zambia. 

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties

1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints No
CAT Optional Protocol 1 Signatory
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties

1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

State Party
1998 Protocol to the African Charter on the African Court Signatory
Article 34(6) declaration regarding individual petitions N/A
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties at Regional Level
Malabo Protocol on the African Court of Justice and Human Rights Not party

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

Under the 1996 Constitution, the functions of the Zambia Police Force include the following:  to protect life and property; to preserve law and order; to detect and prevent crime; and to co-operate with the civilian authority and other security organs established under the Constitution and with the population generally.Art. 104, 1996 Constitution of Zambia. The use of force to arrest is generally subject to principles of necessity and reasonableness under the 1930 Penal Code Act.Chap. IV, s. 18, 1930 Penal Code Act.That same Act, however, allows the dispersion of rioters including by recourse to lethal force.

If upon the expiration of a reasonable time after such proclamation is made, or after the making of such proclamation has been prevented by force, twelve or more persons continue riotously assembled together, any person authorised to make proclamation, or any police officer, or any other person acting in aid of such person or police officer, may do all things necessary for dispersing the persons so continuing assembled, or for apprehending them or any of them, and, if any person makes resistance, may use all such force as is reasonably necessary for overcoming such resistance, and shall not be liable in any criminal or civil proceeding for having, by the use of such force, caused harm or death to any person.Chap. IV, s. 18, 1930 Penal Code Act.

Under the 1965 Zambia Police Act, any police officer may use his/her firearm against "any person in lawful custody charged with or convicted of a felony when such person is escaping or attempting to escape" where the police officer "has reasonable ground to believe that he cannot otherwise prevent the escape and unless he shall give a warning to such person that he is about to use firearms against him and the warning is unheeded".Part IV, s. 24, 1965 Zambia Police Act.A Police officer may also use his/her firearm against "any person who by force rescues or attempts to rescue any other person from lawful custody" or who "by force prevents or attempts to prevent the lawful arrest of himself or of any other person" where it is necessary in the circumstances and that there is a danger of grievous bodily harm.Part IV, s. 24, 1965 Zambia Police Act.

These rules are considerably more permissive than international law allows.

Use of Force in Custodial Settings

The 1965 Prisons Act allows a prison officer to use a weapon against an escaping prisoner where:

(i) the prison officer has reasonable grounds to believe that he cannot otherwise prevent the escape; and
(ii) the prison officer gives warning to the prisoner that he is about to use the weapon against him; and
(iii) the warning given by the prison officer is unheeded.Part V, s. 29(1) and (2), 1965 Prisons Act.

The 1965 Prisons Act also allows a prison officer to use a weapon against a person assisting an escape who is using violence where the prison officer "has reasonable grounds to believe that he or the other prison officer or other person ... is in danger of suffering grievous bodily harm."Part V, s. 29(1) and (2), 1965 Prisons Act.

In any event, only the "minimum force necessary in the circumstances" may be used and the use of weapons (which include firearms) "shall be as far as possible to disable and not to kill".Part V, s. 29(4), 1965 Prisons Act.

Police Oversight

The Zambia Police Public Complaint Commission (PPCC) is a civilian oversight institution established under the Police Public Complaints Commission Act No. 18 of 2016.  The main functions of PPCC are to receive and investigate complaints about police actions; and to investigate all complaints against police actions which result in serious injury or death of a person. However, the PPCC’s findings are only recommendatory and it cannot impose specific penalties.

In 2019, the PPCC announced it would be establishing provincial centres in order better to handle complaints received from the public.



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

The use of force by Zambian police has not been the subject of recent review by a United Nations treaty body.


The use of force by Zambian police has not been the subject of recent review by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.


In connection with Zambia's appearance before the Universal Periodic Review under the Human Rights Council, the Zambian Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) stated that

the country experienced unprecedented levels of political intolerance and violence before, during and immediately after the 11 August 2016 general election. It expressed grave concerns over violent actions of political party cadres and police officers which left several people injured, caused loss of life and property, curtailed freedom of assembly and expression and bred a culture of fear among the electorate and political players. ZHRC commended steps taken by Government to appoint a Commission of Inquiry and recommended making public the finding of this Commission when they become available.


1996 Constitution of Zambia

2016 Constitution of Zambia (amendment)

1930 Penal Code Act

1965 Zambia Police Act

1965 Zambia Prisons Act

2016 Police-Public Complaints Commission Act