NGO Forum Bemoans Pre-Trial Detention Period

Human Rights Group, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, has bewailed the period that the accused and detainees take as they are way longer the constitutionally ordained periods.

In a report that was launched on Wednesday by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum dubbed ‘Rights Behind Bars: A Study of Prison Conditions in Zimbabwe’, the organisation revealed that detainees are being held for long periods before trial.

According to the report, most of the cases are delayed due to reasons like lack of fuel to go to the courts or witnesses being unavailable.

“The first case involved an inmate who had been arrested in 2007 and had been in remand since then, this means that the accused had been on remand for more than 10 years. There were two state witnesses, one of them had passed away and the other was nowhere to be found,” reads part of the report.

The report added: “The accused person had neither a remand date nor a trial date, he did not know what to do with his case given the circumstances, and he wanted to apply for bail but his lawyer was slow in responding to his wishes,

“The second case involved Lameck Akim, a prisoner who had been in remand for more than seven years since March 2010. In October 2016 he applied for bail, but instead the trial started on November 2016, the matter was then remanded to 7 February 2017, but he could not go to court because of fuel challenges,” NGO Forum said in the report.

The organisation added that there is no doubt that the periods for which many prisoners have been placed in remand violate the requirements set out in the constitution an standards in international human rights instruments.

International and domestic law requires an accused to be brought to court within 48 hours of their arrest and to be detained for a reasonable period of time stipulated by a competent court thereafter.

Other topical issues that are included in the report include  prisoner’s dignity, cell conditions, sanitation, bedding, adequate clothing, right to sufficient food , right to health care services and a number of issues relating to juveniles deprived of their liberty.