Ithana responds to US rights report

Ithana responds to US rights report

THE Namibian Government has asked the United States to help it overcome the huge backlog in its courts rather than just criticising.

Justice Minister and Attorney General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana responded to the annual US human-rights report in the National Assembly on Thursday, but concentrated mainly on the part about the delays in finalising court cases. Ithana said Namibia was not only aware of the backlog but was doing something to correct it, and added that “genuine partners (must be) interested in contributing towards a cause”.She said “disingenuous” development partners were not “suitable for Africa” and its future.”They are part of our dark past”.The US rights report, among others, said Namibia generally respected the rights of its citizens, but expressed concern about “serious problems in several areas” which included excessive force during arrests and detentions and lengthy pre-trial detentions.”The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial with a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but this right was limited somewhat in practice by long delays in hearing cases in the regular courts and the uneven application of constitutional protections in the traditional system,” the report said.It said a lack of qualified magistrates and other court officials and the high cost of legal aid resulted in a serious backlog of criminal cases, which often translated into delays of up to one year or more between arrest and trial.”Some of those awaiting trial were incarcerated in the same conditions as those of convicted criminals.Human-rights organisations have criticised lengthy pre-trial detentions,” the report said.Iivula-Ithana said she was aware of the delay in the finalisation of cases because of a host of reasons.”Sometimes it is a matter of Police investigations not being complete or incomplete, some other times it is an issue of the prosecution not being able to proceed without a witness.In other instances, legal aid is being considered or the accused is not represented and requests such, or the counsel withdraw themselves and so forth,” Iivula-Ithana said.She said some of the cases were complex and the courts needed more time to complete them.”However, it is also a matter of the mere lack of sufficient judicial officers to preside over matters, which is a problem we have tried to address in the now ending financial year,” Iivula-Ithana said.She said positions were advertised locally and internationally to counter the court backlog, while training of staff continued.”Now, we are not voluntarily in the wrong.In fact, we find ourselves with a problem and it is incumbent on us to make amends with those who are compassionate in making their contribution honestly and genuinely.Such partners we welcome and hold them dear,” she said.Ithana said Namibia was not only aware of the backlog but was doing something to correct it, and added that “genuine partners (must be) interested in contributing towards a cause”.She said “disingenuous” development partners were not “suitable for Africa” and its future.”They are part of our dark past”.The US rights report, among others, said Namibia generally respected the rights of its citizens, but expressed concern about “serious problems in several areas” which included excessive force during arrests and detentions and lengthy pre-trial detentions. “The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial with a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but this right was limited somewhat in practice by long delays in hearing cases in the regular courts and the uneven application of constitutional protections in the traditional system,” the report said.It said a lack of qualified magistrates and other court officials and the high cost of legal aid resulted in a serious backlog of criminal cases, which often translated into delays of up to one year or more between arrest and trial.”Some of those awaiting trial were incarcerated in the same conditions as those of convicted criminals.Human-rights organisations have criticised lengthy pre-trial detentions,” the report said.Iivula-Ithana said she was aware of the delay in the finalisation of cases because of a host of reasons.”Sometimes it is a matter of Police investigations not being complete or incomplete, some other times it is an issue of the prosecution not being able to proceed without a witness.In other instances, legal aid is being considered or the accused is not represented and requests such, or the counsel withdraw themselves and so forth,” Iivula-Ithana said.She said some of the cases were complex and the courts needed more time to complete them.”However, it is also a matter of the mere lack of sufficient judicial officers to preside over matters, which is a problem we have tried to address in the now ending financial year,” Iivula-Ithana said.She said positions were advertised locally and internationally to counter the court backlog, while training of staff continued.”Now, we are not voluntarily in the wrong.In fact, we find ourselves with a problem and it is incumbent on us to make amends with those who are compassionate in making their contribution honestly and genuinely.Such partners we welcome and hold them dear,” she said.

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