High Court Judge-In-Charge Jane Kabuka has said the establishment of the fast track and user friendly courts for gender based violence (GBV) cases will greatly improved the case flow management and protect human rights of vulnerable people.
Judge Kabuka said cases of GBV has reached alarming levels in Zambia despite a number of initiatives aimed at combating the vice being put in place by state institutions and non-governmental organisations.
She said statistics of reported cases show that the Zambia Police Victim Support Unit recorded over 11, 000 cases of gender based violence in 2011 and 9, 600 in the last quarter of 2012.
Judge Kabuka said with such high numbers, there was need to develop an expeditious manner of handling gender based violence cases.
She said this when she officially opened a two day Zambia Law Development Commission consultative workshop on the establishment of fast track and user friendly courts for gender based violence cases in Chilanga district today.
She has since urged participants at the workshop to consider introducing a one stop centre for gender based violence cases.
Judge Kabuka said other facilities that stakeholders in the fight against the vice should consider include the possibility of allowing child victims, witnesses and other gender based violence victims to give their evidence through video link.
She said this will avoid the intimidation of coming face to face with their alleged attackers which could affect the quality the evidence.
She said another facility that could assist the quality of evidence particularly in sexual offences would be establishing a state run DNA testing laboratory.
Judge Kabuka said results of DNA would help accused persons in deciding whether or not to plead guilty from an informed position and thus avoid unnecessary trials and enhance expeditious disposal of gender based violence cases.
She further noted that amending certain pieces of legislation will be inevitable if fast track courts were to succeed.
She proposed that one area that could be done is to amend the law to increase the sentencing powers of the magistrate to up to 20 years.
Judge Kabuka said this will enable the magistrates not only to try cases but also to sentence the accused persons upon conviction thereby avoiding the delay that occurs through sending cases to the High Court for sentencing.
She commended the Zambia Law Development Commission for spearheading the project which she said was of utmost importance to the Zambian judiciary.
Speaking earlier, Zambia Law Development Commission Deputy Director Joyce MacMillan said the commission was committed to ensuring that sound recommendations were made to achieve the objective of the project.
Mrs. MacMillan stated that gender based violence was an affront to human rights and has far reaching consequences on victims and human development.
She said more effort need to be employed to fight gender based violence and that the courts’ response to cases of gender based violence brought before it has implications on the right to access justice.