Two UN human rights experts have urged the Zambian Government to show it is serious in its efforts to tackle gender-based violence and sexual violence against women and girls by ending the impunity of Zambian singer Clifford Dimba, who was convicted in 2014 for the rape of a 14-year-old girl and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Mr. Dimba was pardoned by President Lungu after serving one year of his sentence and subsequently appointed as an ambassador in the fight against gender violence.
The experts call on the Government of Zambia to publicly withdraw Mr. Dimba’s appointment and to ensure that there are no further pardons for such crimes against woman and girls.
“Such an outrageous release and appointment as an ambassador for the fight against gender-based violence not only traumatises the victim all over again but discourages other victims from reporting similar offences,” said Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.
“The pardon and appointment undermine the strong message against sexual abuse of women and girls that was sent with the original sentence and trivialise the serious nature of these offences,” Ms. Šimonović said. “Rather, Clifford Dimba has been placed in a prominent position and even portrayed as a role model to fight violence against women.”
Since his release, Clifford Dimba has allegedly been involved in two other incidents of violence against women. “This clearly shows that impunity for these offences generates more violence and harm,” said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
“Furthermore it constitutes an utter disrespect for women and girls in Zambia who might rightly feel that their Government is not protecting them. The pardon has meant impunity for an abhorrent crime and his subsequent appointment as ambassador for the fight against such violence is more than cynical and adds insult to injury for the victim,” she added.
The two independent experts highlighted that the granting of a pardon under such circumstances is incompatible with Zambia’s international human rights obligations and the President’s role as a champion in the UN Women’s campaign, He for She.
“For rights to have meaning, effective remedies must be available to redress violations,” said Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio. The best interest of the child should always be considered when considering the release of an offender, the two experts stressed.
Zambia, as a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, should also ensure the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim, which were clearly undermined in this case.
The experts urged the Zambian Government to hold accountable offenders of sexual and gender-based violence without exceptions. Protection and prevention measures should also be adopted, including awareness-raising and education campaigns targeted at both men and women on the importance of gender equality and respect for women and girls.
The human rights experts called on Zambia to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in order to fully comply with international norms and standards. They also urged the State to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women which allows individual and groups to bring complaints to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women once they have exhausted all legal avenues in the country.