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LOCAL human rights lawyers have expressed concern at delays in the justice system, revealing that suspects have gone for six years without trial while illegal immigrants are also languishing in jail for up to three years awaiting deportation.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) revealed the delays in its “State of the justice delivery system in Zimbabwe” report launched in Harare on Monday.
“(The delays have) negatively impacted on the right of citizens to access justice and has also contributed to overcrowding in prisons,” noted the report.
“The rights of pre-trial detainees, who remain innocent until proven guilty need to be respected and their cases handled expeditiously.”
ZLHR said there are also hundreds of illegal immigrants who have been detained for over three years in the country’s prisons.
“There is need to interrogate why these people are being kept incarcerated for so long,” the report noted.
“There should be a distinction between people who are awaiting trial and those in custody on immigration charges.
“A Prison court should be established with magistrates and judges visiting prisons and hearing bail applications to reduce the number of inmates and ensure that the rights are not being violated.”
Some of the delays were blamed on fuel shortages which often result in the prison service failing to take suspects to court for trial.
There is also a serious shortage of judicial officers (magistrates) with many leaving the bench for better remuneration in private practice.
Authorities recently admitted that they were failing to feed inmates whose numbers have overgrown the prisons’ holding capacity by 12%. source-newzimbabwe