CSPRI launches project on constitutionality of criminal procedure

On 18 and 19 May 2015, CSPRI hosted a seminar in Cape Town with experts in constitutional law and criminal procedure law from Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia.

CSPRI is currently investigating the constitutionality of domestic criminal procedure and prison legislation in these countries. In many African countries, criminal procedure legislation and prison laws were adopted in the middle of the 20th century and have not been substantially updated since, despite many African countries undergoing constitutional reform at the end of the 20th century. Constitutional reform has, however, not always translated in the reform of subordinate criminal procedure and prison laws. New constitutions often afford extensive rights to detained and accused persons, but without these rights being enabled in the relevant legislation.

The objective of the seminar was threefold. Firstly, the aim was to understand to what extent a domestic constitution could frame subordinate laws, in particular in relation to trial rights, pre-trial rights, prison laws and ultimately post-trial rights. The fundamental right to human dignity remains central in providing both accused and victims with a basis for further legal recognition.

Secondly, the experts presented the main points of conflict between domestic constitutions and criminal procedure and prison laws, as well as any achievements that were made, either through intervention of a branch of government or of civil society, in bringing criminal procedure and prison laws in line with the constitution or with international human rights standards. This served to highlight the vast differences in the language used by constitutional and legal provisions in the various countries under review.

Finally, the experts and CSPRI team developed a data collection template reflecting themes and sub-themes of constitutional provisions that may or should have been reflected in subordinate laws.

The experts will use the template as the basis for research in each of the countries. The data collected will be compiled in a single report providing a comparative analysis of all the country reviews and is scheduled for publication by CSPRI in early 2016.

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