THE proper functioning of the Judiciary and law enforcement agencies is essential not only for an effective criminal justice policy, but also for the protection of the fundamental human rights of the individual citizens.
The effective functioning of the justice and its sector reforms in Zambia are the main avenues for promoting democratic governance, the rule of law, respect of human rights, gender equality, citizen
security, and thereby ensuring sustainable socio-economic development.
The universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms are cardinal to the growing democracy, like Zambia’s.
This entails reforming the justice sector and improving people’s capacity to access justice which go hand-in-hand with enforcing the rule of law.
That relies on the principle that the law is supreme and all, including police officers, political leaders and others, are equal before the law and accountable for their actions.
These are some of the tough topics President Hakainde Hichilema tackled on Sunday and yesterday.
For instance, President Hichilema said the police officers should not arrest a suspect before thoroughly investigated the matter and once an arrest has been effected on a suspect, the suspect should be taken to court within 48 hours.
During the previous government administration, the police effectively used the power of arrest to intimidate, harass and silence those who were perceived to have been enemies of individuals within the ruling class then.
In some instance, it was clear that the police had moved in to arrest an individual without any iota of evidence and without any intention of prosecuting the matter but just to punish the suspect (victim).
Without even establishing any prima facie case against the suspect police hurriedly arrested and detained their ‘victims’ for weeks without trial, against the spirit of justice to take suspect to court
within 48 hours, following the arrest.
In some instances, the lawyers for these suspects had to employ another legal instrument called habeas corpus for their clients to have their day in court.
Habeas corpus is a remedy in law, through which a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court orders the custodian of the person, usually a correctional facility official, to bring the detainee to court.
Similarly, to maximise the time of their pleasure of seeing untried suspect languishing in police cells the police, have in those instances not been willing to grant bond to the suspects even when the offences
the people are charged with are bondable.
In fact, in some instances the detainees are kept in cells without even being charged to start with.
We, therefore, commend President Hichilema for his directive to end that unjust act!
Likewise, some bail conditions demanded by some courts have been so prohibitive that they render the right to a bail almost unreal, unless to the rich and those with political connections.
We concur with the president that the courts should hear the cases brought before them expeditiously to mete out justice and that bail, where applicable, should be granted with relaxed conditions.
After all, the suspect and the accused are just that, and are innocent until proven guilty!