A study by groups representing Zimbabwean lawyers says 30 percent of the total prison population in Zimbabwe are people who have been incarcerated before trial, a situation many in the legal fraternity say should not be allowed to continue.
The report commissioned by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Law Society Zimbabwe says the figure is too high, adding it is needless to detain people for long periods without trial.
The report launched Friday, says the high number of detainees is largely due to inefficiencies in the country’s justice delivery system.
It further says that conditions at both police holding cells and remand prisons are appalling and inhumane.
Launching the report, lawmaker of Jessie Majome, chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, says such high numbers of pre-trial detainees is avoidable.
Majome urged government and civil society to take the report seriously and adopt its recommendations to improve the processing of cases, increase funding for upgrading detention facilities as well as improving conditions of service for employees within various institutions in the criminal justice systems.
Charlton Tsodzo, who carried out the study, said their conclusion was that while the country has adequate legislative provisions to enable the realization of rights for pre-trial detainees, their implementation is constrained by the funding shortages, institutional capacity constraints and the slow recovery in the country’s socio-political and economic fortunes.
The report argues that improved conditions of service for employees in institutions in the criminal justice system such as the police, prison services and the National Prosecuting Authority would improve the country’s justice delivery system.
Zimbabwe has 72 prisons which are severely underfunded resulting in shortages of clothes and food for inmates.
Last month, President Robert Mugabe pardoned about 2,000 prisoners to decongest the country's prisons.