Mozambique Pre-trial Detention Audit results launched in Maputo

Results of an audit of pre-trial detention in Mozambique, carried out by Liga Moçambicana dos Direitos Humanos (the Mozambique Human Rights League) and CSPRI at the Community Law Centre of the University of the Western Cape, were presented at a seminar on 11 and 12 September 2014 in Maputo.

Delegates from other African countries attended the launch to share how similar audits conducted in their countries underpinned targeted interventions. In Zambia, the audit carried out in that country highlighted problems with police bail, leading to project to understand the issues and reform police practice. In Malawi, the audit carried out their highlighted problems with record-keeping in the system which in turn resulted in poor implementation of custody time limits. The Mozambican audit results suggest a number of avenues of further research and reform.

The audit found that in the District Courts 42% of accused persons appearing are detained. District courts generally hear summary crimes which are supposed to be heard immediately without detention. Some 24% of detainees in prison are nevertheless detained on summary crimes. The study recommended that alternatives to detention be explored, particularly in relation to these crimes.

The audit also found that in the District Court cases involving detainees were resolved more quickly than cases in which there were no detainees. A median of 10 days from arrival at court to judgement applied with detainee cases compared to 21 days for other cases. This suggests that where persons are detained, the courts make an effort to expedite these cases. Names of detainees are written in red ink in the registers, which helps with identifying these cases and keeping in mind the urgency.

In 5% of cases involving detainees in the District Court it took 163 days (5 months) or more to judgment. It is recommended that the reasons for delay in this minority of cases, given that most cases are resolved expeditiously, need to be further investigated.

In Provincial Courts 71% are detained. In the Provincial Courts, a longer time period applies where there is a detainee involved in the case. In particular, 5% or 1 in 20 cases involving detainees take longer than 698 days (more than two years). It is recommended that such cases with inordinate delay be identified and reviewed with a view to release.

The data suggests a tendency to detain pre-trial which is not matched by ultimate conviction and sentence of imprisonment in relation to some crime types. These are summary crimes, drug crimes, threats, frauds, and firearm offences. It is recommended that the reasons for this trend be investigated.

The median time from legalised arrest to entry into prison, which can only happen after notification of charge (“charging”), was 31 days, with 25% of cases taking 121 days or more. This is well in excess of the 20, 40 and 90 day limits, which apply to the period from arrest to notification of charge, provided for in the Criminal Procedure an Evidence Code. It is recommended that measures to better track these time periods be investigated and implemented.

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