Zimbabwe: Body Set Up to Oversee Violence Trials

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2 February 2019

Chief Justice Luke Malaba has directed the Judicial Service Commission's secretariat to set up an all-stakeholder tactical committee to ensure speedy prosecution of public violence cases with due respect of the rights of the accused persons.

The committee will address some of the concerns raised by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) in its petition through taking administrative measures to ensure effective management of the numerous public violence cases stemming from the recent violent demonstrations.

A fortnight ago, violence erupted in Harare resulting in the destruction of property, looting, assault and loss of life.

Police arrested at least 1 100 suspects, of whom 1 055 have since appeared in court facing various charges linked to the violence.

LSZ on Wednesday staged a demonstration and handed over to the Chief Justice a petition in which it complained about the manner in which the courts were handling the violence-related cases.

In a statement issued by the JSC in response to the petition, the Chief Justice said a special committee comprising LSZ, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, National Prosecuting Authority and the Chief Magistrate's Office was critical.

The statement was read by JSC Acting Secretary Mr Walter Chikwana on behalf of the Chief Justice.

"The Chief Justice takes note of the high number of suspects facing allegations of public violence and the need for the cases to be expedited and finalised within the shortest possible time.

"To that end, the Chief Justice has instructed the Acting Secretary of the JSC to constitute a tactical committee of members from the Chief Magistrate's Office, Law Society of Zimbabwe, National Prosecuting Authority, Zimbabwe Republic Police and Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services," reads the statement.

The committee's chairperson, the statement reads, will report to the Chief Justice until all the issues are addressed to the satisfaction of the relevant stakeholders.

Meanwhile, JSC is working on increasing the number of magistrates designated to deal with political violence cases for expedience and quality justice.

"From an administrative perspective, the Judicial Service Commission will intervene and avail more magistrates to preside over the cases.

"The Chief Justice calls upon prosecutors to present all State papers to the accused and legal practitioners timeously to enable prosecutions to proceed without further delays.

"Legal practitioners must also stand ready to provide pro-bono (legal services offered without taking a fee) services to smoothen the process," reads the statement.

Between January 14 and January 29 this year, 371 cases were taken to court. At least 1 055 suspects were brought before the courts with 48 of them getting bail.

Twelve juveniles who appeared in court were released into the custody of their parents on appearance in court. Some 995 suspects were denied bail and remanded in custody. Trials in respect of 146 suspects commenced resulting in the conviction of 80 while 66 were acquitted.

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