Zambia under fire for appointing pardoned rapist as ambassador in gender violence fight

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Clifford Dimba, a singer who was convicted of the rape of a 14-year-old girl, has been appointed by Zambia as an ambassador in the fight against gender violence - provoking a backlash from the UN Human Rights office.

Dimba, 30, known as General Kanene, was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, but was pardoned by President Lungu in July after spending a year behind bars. After his release, Dimba was involved in two further incidents of violence against women, but according to local media was released on bail.

On top of the reduced sentence, Dimba was appointed the "ambassador in the fight against gender violence," much to the dismay of the United Nations Council of Human Rights (UNCHR), which issued a statement on Tuesday.

“Such an outrageous release and appointment as an ambassador for the fight against gender-based violence not only traumatizes 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.

She added that the decision of the Zambian president undermined the strong message against sexual violence against women sent by the initial sentence for Dimba.

“Rather, Clifford Dimba has been placed in a prominent position and even portrayed as a role model to fight violence against women,” Šimonović said.

The pardon for Dimba means “impunity for an abhorrent crime” and his appointment is “more than cynical and adds insult to injury for the victim,” said another UN human rights expert, 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,” she said.

The statement called on Zambia to publicly withdraw Dimba’s appointment, to ensure there will be no further pardons for such crimes and that child victims will be ensured to enjoy “physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration.”

Zambian authorities were indignant at the UN criticism, saying that the pardon for Dimba was absolutely legal.

“Our constitution provides that the president of Zambia can pardon criminals and order their release from prison. This is the prerogative of the president and no one can question him for exercising his rights as provided for in the constitution which he swore to protect,” government spokesman Chishimba Kambwili said, as cited by Anadolu news agency.