I am not surprised that Mr Chishimba Kambwili has been convicted and sent to jail.
Mr Kambwili had made very serious allegations of soliciting a bribe against the trial magistrate. The logical thing would have been to remove this magistrate from hearing Mr Kambwili’s case to ensure that a fair trial is not only guaranteed but it is also seen to be assured.
I don’t think Mr Kambwili received what can pass or be seen as a fair trial.
Without delving into the merits or demerits of the case, very few can say Mr Kambwili has been convicted and sent to jail by an impartial magistrate. There was no fair trial in this case. It’s very important for every accused person to have a fair trial.
It’s actually impossible to overstate how important the right to a fair trial is. Honestly.
Fair trials are the only way to prevent miscarriages of justice and are an essential part of a just, fair and humane society. Every person accused of a crime should have their guilt or innocence determined by a fair and effective legal process. But its not just about protecting suspects and defendants. It also makes our nation safer and stronger. Without fair trials, victims can have no confidence that justice will be done. Without fair trials, trust in government and the rule of law collapses.
The right to a fair trial has long been recognised by the international community as a basic human right. Despite this, it’s a right that is increasingly being abused in this country to settle political and other scores with devastating human and social consequences.
Despite the importance of fair trials being recognised by the international community, this basic human right is being abused day-in-day-out in this country. We must put an end to these abuses. Let’s build a criminal justice system in which every person’s right to a fair trial is respected. We won’t get there overnight. But with each step we take towards a criminal justice system in which every person’s right to a fair trial is respected, we are protecting our people against miscarriages of justice and building fair and effective criminal justice systems that benefit everyone.
Lastly, my great fear is Mr Kambwili’s state of health. He has very dangerous levels of hypertension. If Mr Kambwili was to die in prison under these circumstances his death would be very difficult for this government to explain to our people. This may fuel very serious political mistrust, tension and instability in our country.
Mwika Royal Village, Chinsali