A team of seventeen lawyers from DLA Piper Africa member firms, including the independent DLA Piper Africa member firm in Zambia Chibesakunda & Co. (CCO), travelled to Copperbelt Province to support Undikumbukire Project Zambia (UP Zambia). The Zambian human rights organization is expanding its services to reach children detained in adult facilities in the region and assists imprisoned juveniles obtain legal representation and social support. It also advocates for a more restorative justice system.
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, estimates that more than 1 million children are detained around the world, and that most of these children are incarcerated for petty crimes or for minor offences. Due to the lack of dedicated juvenile justice facilities in some Zambian regions, children accused of offences can be held in adult facilities while waiting for their cases to be concluded. Copperbelt Province is one such region.
With the cooperation of the Zambian judiciary and its Ministry of Home Affairs, the team of lawyers DLA Piper Africa member firms joined UP Zambia staff for a week-long visit to prisons and courts in Copperbelt Province. Team-members interviewed, counselled and drafted case plans for over one hundred children. They then traced critical files and documents to accelerate the disposition of cases, contacted and counselled parents, drafted submissions and advocated for the children in court.
The information gathered by the team will allow UP Zambia to expand its services – previously largely confined to Lusaka Province – to children in the Copperbelt. The data which included interviews with Judiciary and Corrections officials, will also be shared with the Government of Zambia to inform its ongoing review of child justice systems.
The project was an international effort, reflecting DLA Piper’s broad geographical representation and firm-wide commitment to pro bono. Lawyers came from offices in Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Australia, Hungary and the United States.
Commenting on the project, Chiko Chuula, partner at the independent DLA Piper Africa member firm CCO, said: “Zambian law provides protections for children in conflict with the law, but there is a shortage of legal services available to defendants so many children go unrepresented. UP Zambia has been working valiantly to fill the gap, with very limited resources. It is an honor for DLA Piper Africa to be able to assist them in their important work to expand access to justice for children. The support of the Zambian judiciary and the Ministry of Home Affairs has also been critical to the success of the project.”
This is an on-going pro bono engagement for DLA Piper Africa, which will continue to support UP Zambia in its advocacy for child-friendly criminal justice laws and policies.