President Hakainde Hichilema announced the move on Dec. 23, which “followed years of advocacy by concerned stakeholders, such as the National Human Rights Commission, civil society organizations, development partners, the UN team and other partners,” he said.
The UN team in Zambia is led by Resident Coordinator Beatrice Mutali.
Several UN entities contributed to the milestone there by providing authorities with a wide range of technical support.
Entitlement review support
For example, the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) helped the country prepare the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council, including the fourth review scheduled for this year.
The UPR process was established in 2006 to review the human rights situation of all 193 UN member states. It is conducted by a working group that meets three times a year, assessing 14 countries each session.
The abolition of the death penalty has invariably been included as a central topic in the first, second and third periodic reviews.
‘Breakthrough moment’ in May
President Hichilema took office in August 2021, and a “breakthrough” occurred the following May when the leader and the new Zambian government pledged to abolish the death penalty and work with parliament to that end, the statement said.
Since then, the UN team has stepped up its advocacy efforts, culminating in December celebrating International Human Rights Day with government partners.
The UN team also supported the review, amendment and enactment of ordinary laws, including the Penal Code and the Public Order Act, as well as contributing to the recent repeal of defamation of the president as a criminal offence.
The UN and the Zambian government also recently signed a new roadmap for the partnership for the next five years.
“With this UN framework for sustainable development cooperation, the country team will continue to support the government’s efforts to consolidate democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” the statement said.