The enjoyment of civil and political rights in Zambia: A critical analysis of a prisoner's right to vote

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Masengu, Misozi Hope
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Zambia has ratified various international human rights instruments in order to ensure the realisation of civil and political rights. One such right is the right to vote. It is a basic tenet of any democratic society and a fundamental human right. Despite the ratification of these various instruments, certain sectors of the Zambian society, particularly prisoners are denied the right to vote during elections. Considering the fact that the right to vote is a fundamental human right and an important aspect of a democratic society, it is necessary to critically examine whether it is justified to deny prisoners this right. By international law standards, Zambia is in breach of its international law obligations to respect and ensure to its citizens the rights recognised under international instruments without distinction of any kind. Disallowing prisoners to vote amounts to discrimination on the grounds of one's status as a prisoner. This is a substantial derogation from the provisions of international instruments Furthermore, for a law to restrict a constitutionally guaranteed right, it must be shown that the restriction provided for by the law is necessary for public safety or defence. If the restriction that is provided by law does not show that it is necessary in the interest of public safety and defence, then such a restriction is unlawful. Taking the vote to the prisoners does not in any way threaten the country's existence or its territorial integrity. Therefore, the law that restricts prisoners from voting is not reasonably required in the interest of defence, public safety and public order. It is thus not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.
Civil Rights-Zambia , Political Rights