The Zanzibar Law Society is shocked by press reports that Deputy Director of Criminal Investigations in Zanzibar, Deputy Police Commissioner Salim Msangi, has demanded that lawyers cease defending people who are accused of crimes, warning that, should they continue to do so, they will be joined together as defendants with the accused, “so they can defend each other in jail.”
Deputy Commissioner Msange made this statement while speaking to the press on June 28th, 2016, in Pemba.
The Zanzibar Law Society strongy condemns this statement, particularly as it comes from someone who is expected to understand how the Criminal Justice System works here in this country. The statement demonstrates that certain people whose job it is to uphold the Criminal Justice System have no understanding of the Constitution, Laws, and Human Rights, or of international treaties that protect these rights and to which Tanzania is a signatory.
The Zanzibar Law Society has thoughtfully considered Commissioner Msangi’s statement and interprets it as follows:
1. Deputy Commissioner Msangi and the Police Force decry and are offended by the existence of Attorneys and their practice.
2. Deputy Commissioner Msangi and the Police Force decry and are offended by the Legal system that grants authority to the Chief Justice of Zanzibar to select Attorneys to represent defendants in Criminal cases, in particular those relating to killings, and criminal offences in accordance with the Zanzibar Law of the Child.
3. Deputy Commissioner Msangi and the Police Force decry and are offended by the substance of the rule of law, human rights, and good governance, which grant any and all persons the right to legal representation before the Court and other institutions and agencies concerned with criminal matters.
4. Deputy Commissioner Msangi and the Police Force do not believe in the right to a fair trial in criminal proceedings, and they do not believe that an accused person requires legal representation while in police custody or before the Court.
5. Deputy Commissioner Msangi and the Police Force do not believe in, do not know about, or do not take seriously the existence of defence attorneys as a crucial pillar of the Justice System with regard to Criminal Procedures.
6. Deputy Commissioner Msangi and the Police Force do not understand that the authority to order the joinder of defendants in a criminal case belongs to the Director of Prosecutions.
We take this opportunity to remind and explain to Commissioner Msangi and the entire Police Force that the existence of lawyers and their practice is in accordance with the Legal Practitioners Decree, Section 28 of the Laws of Zanzibar. We request that Commissioner Msangi acknowledge the following articles of the Zanzibar Constitution of 1984, and of the Criminal Procedure Act No. 7 of 2004 .
Zanzibar Constitution of 1984
Chapter Three, 12 (6) To ensure equality before the law, the govemment shall make procedures which are appropriate or which take into account the following principles, namely;
(a) when the rights and duties of any person are being determined by the court or any other agency, that person shall be entitled to a fair hearing and to the right of appeal or other legal remedy against the decision of the court or of the other agency concerned;
(b) no person charged with a criminal offence shall be treated as guilty ofthe offence until proved guilty of that offence;
(f) the accused in criminal cases has the opportunity of being defended by the advocate of his choice.
Criminal Procedure Act No. 7 of 2004
Any advocate registered by the High Court under the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Law, Cap. 28, shall have a right under this Act to represent and defend or advise any person suspected or accused of any offence and the police, prison authorities, hospitals and other state bodies shall accord defence advocates such access and assistance as would render effective their work of defending or advising suspected persons under their custody or authority.
In the absence of any provision in any other law to the contrary, any person accused before any criminal court, or against whom proceedings are instituted under this Act in any such court may of right be defended by an advocate.
Where in any trial involving a capital punishment, the accused is not represented by an advocate, and where it appears to the High Court that the accused has not sufficient means to engage an advocate, the Court may assign an advocate for his or her defence at the expense of the State.
It is clear that his statement, in which he warned Attorneys to stop defending accused persons, threatening to join them as defendants to the cases facing their clients, reveals his poor understanding of the laws of Criminal Procedure and raises doubt among the people as to whether this Director of Criminal Investigations in Zanzibar has the character, competence, and aptitude to remain in office, and whether those people accused of crimes and under his authority are assured of their rights and other protections as accorded by the law.
The Zanzibar Law Society asserts the following:
1. It strongly condemns the statement made by Deputy Director of Criminal Investigations in Zanzibar, Deputy Commissioner of Police Salim Msangi, demanding that attorneys representing the accused cease to do so immediately, and warning that if they do not, they will be joined as defendants in their clients’ cases.
2. The authorities that appointed and are responsible for the behavior of Deputy Police Commissioner Salum Msangi should reevaluate the qualifications, competence, and aptitude of Deputy Police Commissioner Salum Msangi to determine whether he is suited to continue as Deputy Director of Criminal Investigations in Zanzibar.
3. We demand that the Government state its displeasure with and rejection of Deputy Police Commissioner Salum Msangi’s statement, and that it guarantee the freedom and safety of Attorneys as they fulfill their duties in accordance with the laws and Constitution of Zanzibar.
4. Should the Government fail to guarantee the safety and freedom of
defence attorneys practicing here in Zanzibar, the Zanzibar Law Society will have no choice but to consider further action in accordance with the Consitution and the law.
Finally, we call on all who have been appointed to public office to respect others’ expertise, and to foster a culture in which attorneys are viewed as fellow stakeholders rather than as adversaries.
OMARI SAID SHAABAN
President, Zanzibar Law Society