11 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Justice System Urged to Embrace ICTs

Masvingo Bureau — A High Court judge has challenged Zimbabwe's justice system to embrace the use of Information Communication Technology for the country to reduce a rising backlog of cases accumulated over the past few years.

Officially opening the High Court legal year in Masvingo yesterday, High Court Judge Justice Charles Hungwe lamented the continued increase in the number of cases awaiting trial at the courts.

He said the backlog of cases at the Masvingo circuit remained very high. There are 87 cases awaiting trial after only 23 were completed over the last 12 months. He said the use of ICTs by Zimbabwean courts could go a long way in curbing the backlog.

"In the last 12 months, a total of 110 cases were committed for trial in this High Court circuit. Out of those only 23 were completed... Some of these costs can be curtailed if the criminal trial process is modernised to reduce the length of criminal trials where this can be justly achieved.

"There is also a need for legislation permitting overseas witnesses to give evidence remotely by video link which could also substantially reduce costs of criminal trials to the public purse. What comes to mind is the role information and communication technology can play in evidence capture, preservation and its eventual presentation during trial," Justice Hungwe said.

He blamed accommodation shortages coupled with financial and human resources challenges especially in remote parts of Zimbabwe for stifling efforts to improve the justice delivery system.

Justice Hungwe challenged Zimbabwe's justice delivery system to prepare for a new epoch that will be ushered with the adoption of a new constitution in Zimbabwe which will be preceded by the holding of a referendum.

He said it was important for Zimbabwe's judiciary to gear up for elections which will be held this year by making sure the courts continued to uphold the right of each and every citizen to a fair hearing before an independent and impartial court.

Ten murder cases have been set down for trial during the Masvingo High Court circuit.

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