Supported by the Irish Embassy in Lusaka, our Rule of Law programme in Zambia began in April 2022 and focuses on two main issues: helping to tackle the widespread corruption in the country, and improving access to justice for unrepresented accused persons in Zambia’s prisons through the development of a Camp Courts system, similar to the one run by IRLI in Malawi.
IRLI is working closely with representatives from the Zambian justice sector through a Steering Group that guides activities across both areas, to ensure that they are carried out effectively and remain in line with Zambian justice sector needs. At present the Steering Group includes representation from the Ministry of Justice, the office of the Chief Justice, the National Prosecution Authority, the Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Legal Aid Board.
To do this, IRLI will be working to help improve the functioning of the Economic and Financial Crimes Court – specifically set up in 2022 to tackle corruption and other financial crime in Zambia – as well as the effectiveness of criminal justice actors more generally.
In this regard, information exchange, knowledge sharing, and training are key components of our Zambian programme. In December 2022, two senior Irish judges contributed to a remote training workshop for members of the Zambian judiciary. This was followed in March 2023 by a two-day Economic and Financial Crime conference in Lusaka, led by Irish and Northern Irish lawyers, judges, senior prosecutors and police.
Financial and Economic Crime Conference, Lusaka, March 2023.
Subsequently, four Zambian representatives, selected from the relevant key institutions, will participate in a return visit to the two jurisdictions within Ireland, during which they will be exposed to the practices and procedures relating to the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of financial crimes, and the seizure, management, and disposal of criminal assets. The hope is that this exchange will lay a solid foundation for the ongoing training of Zambian judges and prosecutors, and ensure that corruption cases in the country are handled more fairly and expeditiously.
Establishing Camp Courts
It is widely accepted, including by Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema, that there is an urgent need to decongest the country’s prisons. In Malawi, IRLI’s team supports Camp Courts – court hearings in prisons – that play a vital role within a justice sector that faces logistical and other challenges in bringing prisoners to court. Through the current programme, IRLI is supporting Zambian justice actors to determine whether a Camp Courts model, appropriately modified to address the country’s specific context, can also have a positive impact on the Zambian justice system.
Participants at the Camp Courts Demonstration, Lusaka, March 2023.
Utilising the first-hand experience of our full-time office in Malawi, IRLI has engaged in initial discussions with a number of Zambian justice sector actors. In March 2023, an event in Lusaka included a formal demonstration of how Camp Courts work and an in-depth discussion of the benefits that can be realised through the adoption of a Camp Courts model. Ultimately, if deemed a suitable mechanism in Zambia, the project will assist Zambian authorities in designing their own version of the Camp Courts model, as well as providing support to achieve its implementation.