‘Amend laws to allow for fair trial of arrested people’

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Zimbabwe prisoners (file pictures

Veritas yesterday said there was need for amendments to various pieces of legislation in line with the new Constitution in order to enable fair trial and representation of accused persons in courts.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

The organisation provides information on the work of the Parliament of Zimbabwe and the laws of Zimbabwe and makes public domain information widely available. In a statement, they said there was need for implementation of the Declaration of Rights as envisaged in the Constitution, which guaranteed fundamental human rights and freedoms to everyone in Zimbabwe. They said the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act needed to be amended to enable fairness of trials.

“Section 50 of the Constitution, which forms part of the Declaration of Rights, gives people who have been arrested or detained essential rights to ensure they are treated humanely, and section 70 gives them further rights to ensure that, when they come before a court they receive a fair trial,” Veritas said.

“Provisions of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act that are unconstitutional include Section 32 which allows arrested persons to be detained for longer than 48 hours either because the 48 hour period expires on a non-court day or because a justice of the peace has issued a warrant for their further detention. Under the new constitution only a court can extend the period beyond 48 hours.”

Veritas said section 42 (2) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act which allowed persons to be killed if they tried to escape from lawful arrest was unconstitutional as the right to life under section 48 of the Constitution cannot be limited. They said other unconstitutional provisions in the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act included section 117 which imposed severe restrictions on an accused person’s right to bail.

“Section 50 (1) (d) of the Constitution says arrested persons are entitled to bail ‘unless there are compelling reasons justifying their continued detention,” the organisation said.

Veritas said the Courts and Adjudicating Authorities (Publicity Restriction) Act must also be amended because it gave ministers rights to issue notices prohibiting parties in civic and criminal proceedings from passing information to each other.

“A minister could therefore prohibit the prosecution in a criminal case from revealing information to the accused which might be vital for his defence.”

They said the Customary Law and Local Courts Act and the Small Claims Courts Act should be amended to remove provisions that hindered rights to legal representation.