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Prison congestion causes cited

PRISCILLA MWILA, Lusaka
OVER 80 percent of accused persons at pre-trial stage had not accessed bond or bail despite facing baillable or bondable offences due to ignorance, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) has observed.
HRC deputy director Katendi Nkombo said this during a consultative workshop for the implementation of bail and bond reforms in Zambia in Lusaka yesterday.
“The Zambian Constitution guarantees the right of an accused person to be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time. However, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is being infringed by the systematic over-use of pre-trial detention in Zambia,” she said.
Ms Nkombo said it is alarming to note that accused persons are now spending durations of their trials in detention despite the existence of bond or bail.
She said the situation has resulted in overcrowding of detention facilities, thereby exposing inmates to inhuman and degrading conditions against international standards.
Ms Nkombo said inadequacies in the penal laws such as absence of proper guidelines in the exercise of discretion on the part of the court or police when granting bail or bond contributes to increased pre-trial cases.
And Lusaka Province commissioner of police Charity Katanga has cautioned police officers to avail police bond to accused persons as it is their right.
She said the police should avoid unnecessary detention of accused persons, especially on petty offences, but use discretion when need arises.

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