The Zambian authorities must end the persecution of individuals based on their perceived sexual orientation, Amnesty International said as the trial of two Zambian men accused of having sex "against the order of nature" is set to conclude on Tuesday, 25 February.
James Mwape and Philip Mubiana have been held in prison since May 2013. Both men, aged 22, were subjected to forcible anal examinations, by government doctors to "prove" their involvement in sexual activity. These examinations are tantamount to torture and scientifically invalid.
Amnesty International regards both men to be prisoners of conscience and is calling for their immediate and unconditional release.
"There has been a string of violent attacks and state prosecutions of people believed to be gay or lesbian in Zambia", said Simeon Mawanza, Zambia Researcher at Amnesty International.
Police as well as members of the public have carried out homophobic attacks on individuals perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. These attacks have been instigated by a series of inflammatory statements made by senior government officials instructing the public to report anyone they suspect of being a homosexual or "promoting homosexuality."
"The Zambian authorities must end this systematic persecution and investigate all homophobic attacks. The authorities must bring those responsible - whether police or members of the public - to justice," said Simeon Mawanza
The trial of James Mwape and Philip Mubiana is expected to conclude at the magistrate court in Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia on 25 February when the court gives the verdict. If convicted they face at up to 14 years in prison.
Homophobic rhetoric by senior government officials has created a hostile environment in which physical and verbal attacks are becoming increasingly commonplace, instilling fear amongst LGBTI Zambians.
At least five men are known to have been arrested under Zambia's anti-sodomy laws in the past year.
In January, a young man in Lusaka was assaulted by police officers. He was seriously injured and required medical treatment. They told him that they wanted to "ungay" him.
Online publications, particularly Tumfewko.com and Zambian Eye, have been "outing" individuals as "gay and lesbian leaders", exposing them to discrimination and the very real risk of violence.
Human rights activists defending Zambian's sexual rights have been targeted by the police, forcing many into hiding.
Laws prohibiting consensual, private, same-sex sexual activity are in violation of international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These laws infringe on human rights including the rights to freedom of expression, conscience, expression and privacy, which are protected in numerous treaties ratified by Zambia including the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. Zambia has also ratified the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This places an obligation on the government to outlaw torture and to bring perpetrators to justice.
Amnesty International calls on the Zambian authorities to honour their obligation under international human rights law to eradicate discrimination by swiftly investigating all homophobic attacks and to take concrete measures to prevent further attacks.