GOVERNMENT signed a Euro 8.5 million memorandum of understanding with the European Union and Germany aimed at improving justice delivery and protection of human rights in Zambia.
Programme for Legal Empowerment and Enhanced Justice Delivery (PLEED) is a programme which will start next month and end in September 2019.
The EU made a contribution of Euro 7 million towards the project while Germany contributed Euro 1.5 million.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, Ministry of Justice permanent secretary Patricia Jere said PLEED would promote democratic governance through equal justice.
Ms Jere said Government was committed to ensuring high standards of governance at all levels in line with regional and global norms.
And speaking at the same event, Ministry of Finance acting Secretary to the Treasury Dr Ronald Simwinga said justice and governance formed an integral part of Government’s national development policies, plans and priority
He was speaking in a speech read on his behalf by acting permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance Kasonde Mwila.
Dr Simwiinga said in the Vision 2030, Government was keen to improve access to justice by improving case disposal rates. He said enhancing human rights awareness and reducing violations through effective enforcement mechanisms were other Government’s goals by 2030.
Dr Simwiinga said Government was focusing on expanding access to justice based on the recognition that the legal system should be fair and accessible.
“The Government has embarked on implementing legal reforms and has made a commitment to complete the lengthy process of enacting the new Constitution,” he said.
Dr Simwinga said PLEED contributed to Government’s effort aimed at addressing the various challenges and gaps in justice and governance delivery in Zambia.
Meanwhile, EU Head of delegation to Zambia Ambassador Gilles Hervio observed that the justice sector was still facing a number of challenges in Zambia.
Mr Hervio said challenges included substantial backlog of cases, overcrowded prisons, inadequate staffing and shortage of infrastructure.
He said there was urgent need for reforms in Zambia and that PLEED would only be able to support a few of them.
“We hope that we will be able to put citizens at the centre of the action to help them know their rights better and benefit from the support when they interact with the justice system,” Mr Hervio said.
He also said PLEED foresaw support for the expected justice sector wide reforms in justice institutions to improve service delivery.
Mr Hervio said the MoU confirmed the willingness of different institutions to collaborate and commit to the Zambian Government towards improving human rights in the justice system.
He commended President Edgar Lungu for commuting death sentences to life imprisonment.
And head of German cooperation Frank Hofmann said PLEED would put a stronger focus on individual Zambian citizens.
Dr Hofmann said the programme would contribute to the strengthening of democracy and human rights in Zambia.
“The programme we are launching today can play an important role to minimize situations for ordinary Zambians who are unable to make their case in the legal system,” he said.