The Zambia National Association of the Deaf has petitioned the Legal and Justice Sector Reforms Commission to consider employing sign language interpreters in courts and public institutions to assist deaf people access justice.
Two Sign language teachers from Munali girls and Matero secondary schools in Lusaka today told the Justice Fredrick Chomba led Commission that deaf people in Zambia cannot access justice in the courts of law and police stations because of poor communication.
Both Adrina Nchimunya and Lizzy Kamukwamba disclosed that a number of deaf people have been convicted by the courts of law because they could not express themselves in a language Judges could understand.
Ms. Nchimunya said both at police stations and in courts, there are no sign language interpreters to represent the deaf people once arrested.
She appealed to the Commission to consider advising government to either provide training to police officers and lawyers in sign language or employ interpreters to translate to the adjudicators the cases of the deaf as opposed to the current situation where police officers arrest and charge deaf people without hearing them out.
But chairman of the Commission Justice Frederick Chomba advised the petitioners to provide the details of the cases so that it could follow up the matter.
Justice Chomba noted that if the matters presented before the Commission were true, then there was need to seriously engage interpreters to help the deaf people.
And Transparency International Zambia Executive Director Lee Habasonda stated that the Commission can only recommend for the engagement of interpreters only if the number of deaf people is huge.
Mr. Habasonda stated that the scenario that deaf people are not given proper representation in courts needs to be addressed to allow all citizens to access justice without difficulties.
Meanwhile, the Commission has heard that the Zambian judiciary, its judges and lawyers are overprotected to be criticized or prosecuted by members of the public if found wanting.
A petitioner Michael Chiti told Justice Chomba led commission that judges and lawyers are too protective of each other such that even if one lawyers errors, no one can succeed to have prosecute such an officer.
Mr. Chiti narrated a case involving a foreign lawyer who is alleged to have bribed the judges and the Law Association of Zambia’s Complaints Committee over a matter he is said to have swindled his company and the group a lot of money.
Mr. Chiti disclosed that his case has been pending at the LAZ complaints committee for over 7 years and that the Anti-Corruption Commission has been informed but no action has been taken.
Both the Commission Chairperson and the Commissioner from the ACC, Ireene Lamba assured Mr. Chiti that the matter will be considered once he provides documented evidence.