CHIEF Justice Irene Mambilima says there are no sacred cows in the application of the law.
Justice Mambilima said the true reflection of justice demand that judicial institutions operate independently without any form of interference.
Speaking in The Hague, Netherlands during a dialogue discussion which she co-presented with Chief Justice of Ghana Sophia Akuffo on the importance of justice for sustainable peace and development, justice Mambilima said access to justice was a fundamental right hence the need to guarantee every person access to an independent and impartial process and the opportunity to receive a fair and just trial.
She said Zambia, like any other country with a people-driven Constitution, applies the rule of law in the application and enforcement of the law which implies that every person is subject to the law, including lawmakers, law enforcement officials, as well as judges.
Justice Mambilima however noted that a number of people especially in the rural areas still face challenges in accessing justice owing to legal fees.
She explained that the country’s legal aid system does not have sufficient capacity to assist all people who are unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system.
However, justice Mambilima remained optimistic that the Zambian government would find a solution to some of the challenges that courts faced in order to realise Sustainable Development Goal number 16.
“The rule of law is simply the way it is. For example, Zambia has a constitution which is the product of the people, and under that Constitution, laws have been made, and both the governors and the governed are subject to the same law,” she said. “So, whoever contravenes the law is subject to that law. There are no sacred cows in the application of the law. It is the rule of law, not the rule of men, therefore the law is paramount. So regardless of your social status, whether a lawmaker, law enforcement official or even a judge, when you break the law, you go through the same process of trial and you have the right to access to justice like every other person.”
This is according to a statement issued by Phyllis Chilekwa, first secretary – press and public relations at Zambia’s Embassy in Brussels.
“The challenges of delayed justice in Africa are real. To me, I think justice will be meaningless if it takes you so long to get through judicial systems and that is why I have appointed a special committee to tackle this issue by reducing delay and backlog, and so far the results have been phenomenal. However, there is still more to be done in case management especially with the help of technology,” she said.
Justice Mambilima, together with seven other chief justices and senior advocates from selected African countries, are in the Netherlands on a working visit of Chief Justices from Africa.
The four-day meeting which has been organised by the African Foundation for International Law – AFIL, African Institute of International Law, The Hague Peace and Justice, as well as the Netherlands Enterprise Agency -RVO.nl is expected to address key issues in relation to judicial systems in Africa including cutting edge insights on how to advance access to justice globally as well as types of proceedings and divisions in customary, informal, and formal approaches.