Zambia: Zambian authorities must implement the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ recommendations


A range of Zambian organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) and other civil society organizations (CSOs) – who early in March this year made submissions to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Committee) ahead of its examination of Zambia’s compliance with and implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – have welcomed the Committee’s concluding observations and called on the Zambian authorities to take expeditious steps to ensure their implementation.

The organizations include the Zambia Federation of Disability Organizations (ZAFOD),  Mental Health Users Network of Zambia (MHUNZA)Disability Rights Watch (DRW), Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD), the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), the Validity Foundationand the International Commission of Jurists. The organizations, who also collaborated with the International Disability Alliance (IDA) – which, in turn, supports the engagement of national OPDs with the Committee – expressed support for its concluding observations, which cover a broad range of human rights concerns that civil society had brought to the Committee’s attention.

“The Zambian authorities should study the Committee’s recommendations carefully, and, working closely with organizations of persons with disabilities devise a clear, timebound plan for their implementation”, said Justine Bbakali, Federal Director of ZAFOD.

“The recommendations provide clear guidance for critical and urgently needed legislative and policy reform, which, if undertaken, would improve the enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities substantially”, he added.

In particular, the Committee’s concluding observations draw the Zambian authorities’ attention to the “insufficient implementation” of the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2012 “due to the delays in adoption of specific regulations” and its definition of disability, which falls short of the requirements of the CRPD.

“Of particular importance is the Committee’s vital recommendation that Zambia develop regulations, guidelines and policies to ensure that denial of reasonable accommodations is explicitly recognized as discrimination and that processes for effective investigations of such denials take place,” said Wamundila Waliuya, Director of Disability Rights Watch.

The Committee’s consideration of Zambia’s record under the CRPD also included significant scrutiny of the Mental Health Act of 2019 and of its failure to comply with the CRPD by stripping persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities of their right to legal capacity.

“Despite the best efforts of Zambian civil society, section 4 of the Mental Health Act puts in place a system of substituted decision-making for persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities. Contrary to the Zambian Supreme Court’s ruling in December 2023, the CRPD Committee acknowledges that section 4 thus falls short of Zambia’s human rights obligations and must be amended”, said Sylvester Katontoka, Executive Director of MHUNZA.

The Committee also recommends “awareness-raising campaigns and capacity-building” for a range of stakeholders, including the judiciary and members of Parliament, “on the recognition of the legal capacity of persons with disabilities and supported decision-making”.

“This is an essential recommendation because lawmakers and the judiciary have the important task of domesticating the CRPD by changing laws and interpreting them. To fulfil these functions lawmakers and judicial officers must be enabled to do so effectively and with a full understanding of what the CRPD requires”, said Tambudzai Manjonjo, Deputy Director of SALC.

In respect of institutionalization, the Committee recommends that Zambia amend provisions of its criminal law, including those pertaining to detention “at the President’s Pleasure” of persons found to be “unfit for trial” under section 167 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Committee also indicates that Zambia is required, in consultation with persons with disabilities, to “finalize and adopt, as a matter of priority”, guidelines on “community based inclusive development” and to develop a strategy and an action plan for the “process of deinstitutionalization”.

“The conditions in so-called healthcare facilities where persons with disabilities are often institutionalized are dire and may well constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Importantly though, the Committee goes further than this, emphasizing Zambia’s obligation to immediately initiate a process towards deinstitutionalization”, said William Aseka of Validity.

The Committee also makes a number of recommendations, including the need for the amendment of national laws, including the Zambian Constitution to, among other things: adopt a unified concept of disability; eliminate derogatory provisions that discriminate against persons with disabilities; and allow persons with disabilities to fully participate in all aspects of public life.

The Committee also reiterates civil society’s calls for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention and of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa (the Africa Disability Protocol).

“The expeditious ratification of the Protocol to the CRPD and the Africa Disability Protocol would act as signals by the Zambian authorities to persons with disabilities in Zambia and the CRPD Committee that Zambia is fully committed to realizing the human rights of all persons with disabilities. This is overdue and sorely needed”, said Wilson Macharia, ICJ’s Associate Legal Adviser.


Zambia ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 1 February 2010 and enacted the Persons with Disabilities Act 2012 with the stated aim of domesticating the Convention. Zambia submitted its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 19 September 2017, five years after it was due in 2012. On 20 October 2020, during its 14th session, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities issued a list of issues in relation to the initial examination of Zambia. ICJ, MHUNZA, DRW, SALC and VF made a joint written submission to the Committee ahead of the examination of Zambia’s initial report.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities considered Zambia’s
compliance with and implementation of the Convention
 on 6 and 7 March 2024, including in light of a constructive dialogue and engagement with representatives of the Zambian government, as well as representatives of Zambian civil society.


Mulesa Lumina, ICJ Africa Legal and Communications Associate Officer, e:

Wilson Macharia, ICJ Africa Associate Legal Adviser, e:


Concluding observations on the initial report of Zambia – advanced version.

ZAFOD written submission to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

ICJ, MHUNZA, DRW, SALC, and VF, a joint written submission to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Initial report to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

List of issues in relation to the initial report of Zambia

Zambia Persons with Disabilities Act 2012.

Zambia Gender Equity and Equality Act of 2015.

Zambia Mental Health Act of 2019.


This statement is issued by Disability Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, International Disability Alliance, Mental Health Users Network of Zambia, Norwegian Association of Disabled, Southern Africa Litigation Centre, the Validity Foundation and Zambia Federation of Disability Organizations