By MUYANI SHINJABALE
THERE is need to enhance access to justice for suspects, accused persons and inmates in the country, says the Human Rights Commission (HRC).
HRC chief of information, education and training officer Mweelwa Muleya said a good number of people detained in correctional facilities were there because of lack of knowledge on their human rights.
Speaking in an interview in Ndola, Mr Muleya said some inmates suffered a lot because they did not know their right to legal representation as well as appeal.
He said the HRC was going to implement a project on the rights of suspects, accused persons and inmates.
Mr Muleya said the HRC would meet with various stakeholders from the criminal justice system and Judiciary to share information on their obligations to respect the rights of the suspects and accused persons.
He said the HRC would conduct awareness raising activities and meet individuals in detention to hear their cases and advise them on their rights.
The arresting and detention of suspects and accused persons was a norm, which he said was a big challenge.
“It should be an exception that a person should only be detained when you have reasonable grounds to think they might not be available when they are needed to appear before the court of law, ” Mr Muleya said.
He cited Article 18 of the Constitution, which said everyone was innocent until proven guilty.
Mr Muleya said there was need to end unnecessary arrests and detentions as they only worsened overcrowding in correctional facilities.
He said that was why through the support from the African Union project, the ‘Decriminalising Petty Offences in Africa’ project was implemented.
He said cases such as street vending, loitering and sex work did not warrant detention but should instead make the offenders do community service.
Mr Muleya said unnecessary detention needed to stop as there was room for various sectors to improve on justice delivery in Zambia in accordance with the laws of the country as well as regional and international human rights instruments.