GOVERNMENT has assured convicts on death row at Kabwe’s Mukobeko Maximum Prison, whose records have gone missing, that it will find a lasting solution to the problem.
Justice Minister Ngosa Simbyakula said the issue of missing records still remains high on the ministry’s agenda and that a meeting between the Judiciary, Home Affairs and other stakeholders will soon be called.
Dr Simbyakula said his ministry is equally concerned that some convicts who had appealed to the Supreme Court against the death sentence slapped on them had not been given an opportunity to appear in court due to missing records.
In August last year, a Lusaka lawyer submitted that the State should acquit 40 convicts at Mukobeko prison for delaying to hear their appeal cases because records had gone missing.
Henry Chanda said the 40 convicts, on death row, must be acquitted and compensated because their files had gone missing under the custody of the court, which could also be an indication that some court officials were involved in the disappearance of the documents.
The lawyer made the submission to the Legal and Justice Reforms Commission, and stated that some convicts had spent 10 to 15 years in prison without the Supreme Court hearing their appeal cases and that according to the law, the prisoners should be acquitted and compensated by the State.
He said the disappearance of case records deprive the convicts of the right to defend themselves properly because court records are the only weapons they had to argue their case.
In January 2013, convicts on death row at Mukobeko Prison protested and demanded to know whether they will be hanged or not, while others demanded to know what would become of them following the disappearance of court records of appeal.
The more than 300 inmates complained of congestion in the prison and demanded to be addressed by President Edgar Lungu who at the time was Home Affairs minister.