Courts in the country have suspended hearing of all murder cases because Legal Aid Bureau does not have money.
Judiciary Spokesperson, Mlenga Mvula, told The Daily Times, on Tuesday, that the Legal Aid Bureau wrote the courts to suspend the cases three or four months ago until the bureau has enough funds to try such cases.
“Murder cases are only tried at High Court and the state must be represented. Legal Aid wrote us that they did not have the financial resources and we cannot proceed without them. We will proceed when they write again that they have the funds,” Mvula said.
Director of Legal Aid Bureau, Masauko Chamkakala, confirmed writing the Judiciary on the funding situation but said he is engaging government to resume hearing the cases as soon as possible.
“These cases require a lot of resources and in our current state, we asked the courts to adjourn all murder cases which the court did. We recently contacted Minister of Justice who promised to talk to the Minister of Finance on the same,” Chamkakala said.
He, however, would not say how many suspects will be affected and the amount of money needed, only saying “we have engaged the government to give us the funds. And from the funds that we shall receive, we shall determine how many cases to try. Each case has its own cost.”
Executive Director of Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance, Victor Mhango, described the development as sad.
“When the Legal Aid is not funded, poor people suffer. The law presumes that anyone is innocent until proven guilty but here the suspects are already guilty,” he said.
Mhango said it is a human right violation that the murder suspects be on remand for unspecified periods.
“No one can be detained indefinitely without trial in a country that is governed by law and order. The Legal Aid must be funded as soon as possible and have the cases resume,” he said.
Legal Aid Bureau provides legal services to people who cannot afford a private lawyer but the state also gets its prosecutors from the bureau to try murder cases.
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