Africa-Press – Mozambique. An amendment to Mozambique’s Penal Code allows for individuals to remain in jail without being convicted and without being told for how long.
It is suspected that the amendment is a political expedient to keep the defendants in the ‘hidden debts’ behind bars even though their preventive detention periods have expired, the Jornal Evidências advances.
Ferosa Zacarias, president of the Human Rights Commission of the Mozambican Bar Association, believes that “the legislator is only looking at political issues and not legal issues”, and that the absence of time limits on preventive detention “is a serious violation of human rights”.
DW Africa: With the removal of pre-trial detention time limits, are we facing a violation of human rights in the country?
Ferosa Zacarias (FZ):
It is a serious violation of human rights because it is important that every citizen knows why and for how long their freedom will be restricted. And that’s not what happens now with this new revision.
DW Africa: And there seems to be no consensus even among the judges of the Constitutional Council. Of the seven, five seem to have voted against declaring the referred article unconstitutional. In your opinion, what explains this lack of consensus among the judges themselves?
The association of this point with the issue of the undeclared debts is undeniable.
DW Africa: Do you believe it is politically expedient to keep the defendants in jail, including the defendants in the ‘hidden debts’ case?
I will not be able to comment on the specific case. [But] What I see is that there is, yes, a certain fear of leaving it [the legislation] as it was because people have lawyers – the constituents will be able to benefit from that. And we also have the political side of the trial. That is why the legislator prefers to commit this serious violation of human rights, looking at political issues and not legal issues, because it is inconceivable that we are debating this point, which was already a great gain for our country.
DW Africa: How will a broader debate on the topic be possible in society? Is it possible to include civil society in the debate, in Mozambique?
This is our biggest constraint as a country – this public consultation, the involvement of all the stakeholders. The Bar has already played its part, as is public knowledge; civil society organisations have also been doing their work. But it is also important to involve the other pillars of the administration of justice. It is not to be expected that only one entity such as the Bar, or civil society, can require the verification of the constitutionality of this illegal precept. It is also important to look at the judiciary, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, because it is apparent that not setting time limits for preventive detention is a serious violation of human rights.