10 December 2023 Lusaka


As Zambia joins the global community in celebrating the 75th anniversary of the universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was adopted by the UNGeneral Assembly in 1948, the Paralegal Alliance Network (PAN) would like to acknowledge and appreciates the importance of the UDHR as the first legal document to set out that fundamental human rights must be universally protected. This calls for human rights complaint policing and protection of all victims who suffer abuses regardless of race, colour or creed. PAN is happy that Zambia has provided a formal legal framework to recognise Paralegals and their work in contributing to increased access to justice especially for the poor. To help people who are not able to afford a lawyer to represent them, we call upon the Police Service to allow paralegals to be present during warn and caution statement sessions in all stations.

This will help to minimize miscarriage of justice. Despite this achievement, Zambia still records abuses that should surely be practices of the past. Detaining people without charge, failing to take suspects to appear before court within the legally stipulated time, torture and over-detention of criminal suspects without reasonable causes, should surly be behind us. That is why, PAN calls for stakeholders to expand the presence of paralegal in all police stations, correctional facilities, prisons and subordinate courts. This will help the 2 country to reduce abuses and the poor access justice. At the same time Zambia need to increase and expand the establishment of community paralegal desks so that legal information and knowledge is available among ordinary community members throughout the country. As the country goes into the third year of the UPND administration PAN calls for stronger accountability and transparency mechanisms in the country’s governanceespecially the judiciary. It is disheartening to hear that there are still instances wherethree years down the line judgements for concluded cases have not been delivered. It is unfair to the accused persons and to the judicial system.

In addition, we take note with gladness that the new dawn administration has taken the Access to Information Bill to Parliament for enactment. Although the content of the bill was not widely available to stakeholders before it was taken for first reading in parliament, we hope and trust that government will take into account suggestions that will be provided by stakeholders and members of Parliament to improve the bill that will finally be taken further to be law. For instance, the protection of whistleblowers articles should be part of the bill and the cost of access to the information should not prohibit access especially for vulnerable members of society such as persons with disabilities and volunteers in community-run media. We also note with concern the low levels of awareness and knowledge among law enforcement officials on the provisions of the Children’s Code Act of 2022. In order to protect children and defend their rights, there is need to train all law enforcement agencies about this act and also on the law that help access to justice for persons with disabilities. This includes the Mental Health Act of 2019 and Persons with Disabilities Act of 2012. As we conclude the 16 days of gender activism and glorify the UN declaration of Human Rights, we appeal to the state to ensure that GBV prevention and protection projects and programmes are adequately funded. Secondly, we know that GBV in rural areas is linked to the abrogation of land rights. We therefore would like to discourage families and traditional leaders from selling their ancestral land to others. This may create future land wars and also denies the right to land for the children living in the here and now and those not yet born in our clans. Lastly, persons with psychosocial/mental disability who become criminal suspects haveno access to assessment of their condition nearer to their home. This is because currently, such persons are transported to Chainama, East in Lusaka. We call upon government to change the law and deploy Psychiatrists specialists in provinces sothataccused persons suspected of having mental health conditions can be assessed from within their provinces. PAN wishes to encourage the Health Minister Hon. Sylvia Masebo to expedite the process of putting in place the National Council on Mental Health. 3 May we all defend and protect the rights of all people in Zambia and the worldover. Issued by Eugene Kabilika PAN Board Chairperson

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