The community of Sant Egidio, a lay movement of the Catholic Church, has set up Camp Courts for Thyolo and Bvumbwe prisons where 11 remandees answering murder charges were recently given an opportunity to be heard.
Speaking during the exercise, social justice activist Alexious Kamangila (pictured), a volunteer of Sant Egidio, said they have recognized that as much as access to justice is a universally accepted principle of criminal justice system where delay leads to deprivation of liberty, delays remain rampant.
Kamangila said Sant Egidio, moved by the adage, ‘delayed justice is denied justice’ through Justice for All initiative, thought of facilitating Camp Courts after noticing that poor people are the most affected because they cannot afford a lawyer.
Kamangila then applauded the Judiciary for its dedication in taking the Courts to the people, especially those in the peripheries and has since urged other stakeholders to support the initiative so that there should be access to justice for all.
“This just shows, the Judiciary’s commitment that given all the support, many things can improve as far as access to justice for the everyone is concerned. It is our call for other stakeholders, to support this initiative, so that justice can be attained but also decongestion of prisons can become a reality.
“We thank Sant Egidio German, Rome but more importantly, the prisoners of Würzburg Prison. A true gesture that no one is too poor as not to render help to another,” said Kamangila.
Chief Legal Aid Advocate, Mr Rodgers Mpombedza, who represented the 11 accused persons, applauded Court for its dedication to dispense Justice.
He said it is clear from this exercise that the Courts are open to everyone but what slows the wheels of justice many times are the resources which hinders the goal of timely justice and equal access.
“As defence lawyers, we can relate with the Court, as we also face financial constraints to render timely and quality legal representation. We therefore are grateful to Sant’ Egidio’s partnership and call other stakeholders to join, which will go a long way in easing the pressure in the criminal justice system,” said Mpombedza.
The Community of Sant’ Egidio has set up a number of Camp Courts, whose aim is to provide homicide remandees, preferably those beyond the detention time limit, a chance to be heard and considered for bail release.
This exercise incorporates the Judiciary, State Advocate (prosecutors), Legal Aid Bureau (defence lawyers) and Civil Society.
Apart from providing free legal services to the destitute, Sant’ Egidio’s work in prison includes; improving sanitation in prison, providing education materials and skills imparting facilities among other efforts in an endeavour to reduce recidivism.