The Disability Rights Unit (DRU) at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, in collaboration with Zambia’s Ministry of Justice, hosted a two-day training workshop for criminal justice officials. The training workshop focused on ensuring access to justice for persons with disabilities through the provision of accommodations in the criminal justice system and was held in Lusaka from 22 to 23 July 2019.
The workshop was aimed at building the capacity of personnel in the justice system to ensure that persons with disabilities are accommodated to enable them to access justice on an equal basis with others in accordance with article 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Research shows that persons with disabilities encounter numerous barriers to accessing justice on an equal basis with others. The barriers include communication, legal, environmental and attitudinal barriers. These barriers can in part be overcome through the provision of accommodations.
Mr Andrew Nkunika, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, highlighted in his keynote address the fact that access to justice is a right which so many persons with disabilities are unduly denied ‘despite the plethora of legal provisions … and as important as access to justice is.’ He went on to state that ‘we need this training’ and ‘look forward to a Zambia in which a person’s access to justice or ability to defend their rights will not be determined by their physical or mental ability.’
The training was facilitated by Ms Dianah Msipa (DRU Programme Officer and a former prosecutor) and Ms Innocentia Mgijima-Konopi (DRU Project Manager) and was attended by 35 participants involved in the administration of justice in Zambia. Participants included the Zambian Police Service, Judiciary, Correctional Services, the National Prosecutions Authority, Legal Aid Board, Anti-corruption Commission, Drug Enforcement Commission and the Ministry of Justice.
The training is part of a wider project on promoting access to justice for persons with disabilities in Southern Africa which the DRU is implementing in South Africa, Zambia and Botswana with the support of Ford Foundation.