The month of May will be rich of colorful events in Zimbabwe. From May 14th-16th, a legal defense training will be conducted in Harare, with the aim to build on last year’s training conference by training the core group of IBJ volunteer lawyers at a more advanced level. All 40 members of the team of volunteer lawyers – who, along with IBJ fellows ‘efforts, have defended more than 130 detainees last year – will gather to discuss ways to leverage the existing legal framework to ensure systematic protection of the rights of the accused, in particular early access to counsel, freedom from torture and speedy trial. Lawyers from the Legal Aid Directorate, the State-sponsored legal aid organ, will engage with private lawyers on ways to strengthen the existing legal aid system and to expand access to justice to provinces, where legal needs remain widely unmet. The training will be led by Anthony Natale, a practicing trial lawyer for 30 years. Presently, he is a Supervising Assistant Federal Public Defender in Miami, Florida and the training coordinator for the Federal Defender Office for the Southern District of Florida. His experience as a criminal defense trainer in China, Vietnam and Zimbabwe will offer a comparative approach and inspire Zimbabwean lawyers to identify within their own laws provisions that can be leveraged to ensure speedy justice.
Above: The Supreme Court of Zimbabwe in Harare (Photo by Florence Chatira)
The training will promote an interactive approach where lawyers will be put in the situation to develop the theory of the case, interview a client and cross-examine witnesses. IBJ International Program Director, Sanjeewa Liyanage, and IBJ Zimbabwe Fellows, Innocent Maja and John Burombo will appeal to lawyers’ inner values and urge them to take action to improve the fair and speedy delivery of justice across the country. At the end of the training, lawyers will be offered the possibility to take pro-bono cases to stem the tide of the country’s legal needs. The last day of the training will be devoted to identifying and training senior lawyers become instructors/trainers themselves. The hope is to empower local lawyers with a set of teaching skills so that they can themselves later replicate legal defense trainings and mentor their peers throughout the country. Next regional training session in the Fall 2010 will integrate these local instructors in order to increase the sustainability of the training approach.
Above: The Mission Statement of the Zimbabwe Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
To ensure that Zimbabwean lawyers are able to learn “on the job”, follow-up one-on-one mentoring sessions will be conducted at IBJ’s Defender Resource Center in Harare on May 17th and 18th. Anthony Natale will spend time with lawyers to dissect the nuances of their case and help them more fully utilize the portfolio of lessons drawn from the training and the criminal defense handbook. The goal is to provide individualized and innovative solutions to challenges that arise from specific cases and help the accused get the most professional defense possible – especially in cases featuring homicide or other serious crime that could result in the death penalty.
As access to legal aid crucially lacks in provinces, the goal of the series of trainings is also to increase the total number of lawyers trained by reaching out to new areas where IBJ was not present before. Following activities in Harare, the IBJ team will head to Bulawayo to conduct a legal defense training on May 22nd and 23rd. Zimbabwe’s second biggest city, Bulawayo has a rich legal tradition which IBJ hopes to build upon to promote access to justice in Matabeleland North Province. The training will focus on increasing the capability of provincial lawyers to provide competent defenses to accused persons, particularly indigents, of which has been a problematic issue for many Zimbabweans. The training will explore a plethora of legal concepts such as cross-examination and procedures to prevent torture against prisoners, helping the participating lawyers in garnering invaluable skills and building a provincial movement in favor of the protection of the rights of the accused.
Above: Zimbabwean street vendors (Photo by Florence Chatira)
This series of trainings will be an opportunity to intensify awareness-raising and community-building activities by engaging with local partners, meeting lawyers, observing trials and visiting prisons.