Publication Date



On the 9th December 2019, the Supreme Court of Zambia delivered a landmark decision changing the human rights jurisprudence in the context of protecting and preserving the fundamental human rights of prisoners. The appellants were HIV positive and were both in custody at the Lusaka Central Prison. They petitioned the High Court contending breach of their rights to life and protection from inhuman treatment contrary to the Republican Constitution. The argument of the appellants was that the State’s failure to consider their dietary and health needs, due to the budgetary and logistical restraints, fell short of all prescribed standards for the minimum treatment of prisoners. The appellants argued that their right to life was violated or threatened by being fed an inadequate diet that was contrary to the recommended rations as provided by the law.

They further argued that they were being held in overcrowded prison cells with inadequate ventilation, coupled with a lack of flushable lavatories. The conditions in which they were held made their environment unsanitary. Consequently, making the inmates more vulnerable to contracting communicable diseases such as pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) and diarrhoea. The duo argued that this worsened their health conditions, and was a threat to their already compromised immune systems. The appellants, aggrieved by the decision of the High Court, appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing in the main that the learned trial judge of the High Court misdirected herself in law and in fact when she held that their claims were not justiciable under the Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Article 112 (d) of the Constitution.