There is the old adage that goes ”Justice delayed is justice denied”. Indeed with regard to this, even the United Nations Charter on Human Rights recognises that a speedy and fair trial is an entitlement, a human right.
I have been compelled to write and seek the public’s views on the subject as I am very concerned, albeit for very personal reasons, about the delivery of justice in Zambia.
At the risk of being in contempt of court, as the matter I refer to is still in the High court of Zambia, I will, nonetheless delve into a few details.
This is the murder case of THE PEOPLE Vs BEATRICE HANGWENDE AND OTHERS. My sympathy and condolences go to the deceased family. I have among the accused a close relation, whom i I will not name, but who, together with the other accused has been in incarceration at Lusaka Central Prison ( Chimbokaila ) since April 2007. Understandably, as trials of this nature sometimes will, it took the prosecution and the defence four years to conclude the trial. I have to mention here that during the trial there was very little mention of my accused relative and no evidence was offered directly connecting her to the murder.
My concern however is that TWO (2) years after the trial was concluded, the Honourable Judge Gregory Phiri has not passed judgement. 2 years. I am told others have spent 10 or more years in prison without knowing their fate, albeit for different reasons.
Surely don’t the accused persons deserve to know their fate at least?? I am not suggesting that they are innocent or that they be acquitted, just that judgement be passed. Remember that it is not all who are remanded in prison who are guilty. How long does it take surely for the judge to look at the evidence adduced by the prosecution, and the defence offered by the accused and make a judgement of whether to convict or acquit? HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE??
I am told that there is a precedent that says a Judge cannot be compelled to pass judgement, and must do so in his own time. But precedents notwithstanding, MORALITY alone should dictate that these matters especially were the accused are remanded in prison, should be handled speedily. Or at least within “reasonable time”. How much “ reasonable time” is, may be a subject for debate, but surely 2 years to pass judgement is unreasonable.
This is why we need judicial reforms in Zambia because a society, a judicial system that will entrust the lives of its citizens, accused of capital crimes or not, to the whims of one individual is not a just society.
What recourse do we have against such injustice?