The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) in Kasama district has petitioned government to introduce a law that would compel law enforcement agencies to give mandatory bond and bail to suspected criminals.
JCTR Kasama Outreach Regional Officer Felix Chiwela submitted to the Legal and Justice Sector Reforms Commission public sitting in Kasama today that the law enforcement agencies should also be held accountable for failing to observe the law that grants police bond or court bail to suspects pending court appearance.
Mr. Chiwela said the Zambia Police Service and courts of law should give bond and bail respectively to suspects waiting to appear in court as not doing so is an infringement on their human rights as provided for in Article 18 (2A) of the Republican Constitution which talks about the innocence of an accused person until they are proven guilty by the courts of law.
He said the JCTR has observed that a number of people have been detained in police cells for much longer periods than necessary and that the suspects are not given much information on their right to access police bond or bail while appearing in court.
Mr. Chiwela also submitted that the courts of law should deal with cases and dispose them within a reasonable period of time which should be reflected in the statutes of the country adding that longer detention times for suspects had great consequences on their human rights such as loss of employment or other sources of income.
And in his written submission to the Commission, Mr. Chiwela said the JCTR has always advocated for the respect of human rights and that it was clear that much is required to lift the human rights record of Zambia which remains poor.
He observed that the Country Report on Human rights practices in Zambia for 2012 by the United States Department of States notes serious human rights abuses such as restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly and associations and government corruption.
“One such area where human rights have not been fully exercised is in the execution of bail and bond, which is a preserve of the Officer in Charge at a Police Station or the Courts”, said Mr. Chiwela.
‘You will be very surprised to know that the majority of Zambians do not even know the difference between the bail and bond later on when it should be executed”, added Mr. Chiwela.
Mr. Chiwela further recommended that Police should put up posts in the stations clearly stating the conditions of police bond in local language saying the JCTR believes that the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms must be a reality for all persons in Zambia including those that come into conflict with the law.
“We have noted that prominent people in society who have been found wanting rarely spend time in cells or remand because they are able to find lawyers who explain to them about these rights but for a common person it is not the case”, said Mr. Chiwela.
He said the revelation that has been recorded by the Human Rights Commission in their report “A Survey Report on Application of Bond and Bail Legislature in Zambia 2014” brings out serious issues that requires the Legal and Justice Sector Reforms Commission to quickly provide interventions not only to the policy but the administration of the pretrial justice process.
Mr. Chiwela also submitted that in order to reduce congestion in cells, the current law on community sentencing should be strictly enforced and must be mandatory.
He said while the JCTR appreciated that the government has attempted to build some prisons, it must be noted that they are very inadequate in comparison to the inmates and detainees.
And another petitioner Samuel Kambangu, 65, submitted that the Public Order Act should be reviewed because in its current form its not in conformity with the tenets of democracy adding that it was inherited from the colonial masters as a tool to suppress Africans.