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Report: The Socio-Economic Impact of Pre-Trial Detention in Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia


Exactract from the Executive Summary

"In many countries people accused of crimes are held in detention before trial. The law permits
this detention usually in order to guarantee the appearance of the accused at trial. This
project seeks to confirm and quantify the socio-economic impact of such pre-trial detention
on detainees, their families, and associated households, in the main urban centres of Kenya,
Mozambique and Zambia.
The project was informed by an understanding of how socio-economic rights intersect with
fair trial rights. The nature of the obligations on states, as set out in instruments such as
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), are such that
states should ‘respect’, ‘protect’ and ‘promote’ these socio-economic rights. The duty to
respect entails an obligation not to interfere with the resources of individuals; their freedom
to find a job; nor their freedom to take necessary action; and to use their resources to satisfy
needs. Fair trial rights require inter alia non-arbitrary arrests; that the decision to detain is
undertaken by a judicial officer; and that trial or release occurs within a reasonable time.
In short, persons awaiting trial should not as a general rule be detained in custody. Socioeconomic
rights intersecting with fair trial rights, essentially means that criminal procedural
laws and practices must be designed and implemented in such a way as to ensure that
the impact of interference with socio-economic rights on all persons, is minimised. Thus
detention of an accused should only occur when absolutely necessary and for the shortest
possible duration.
This project sought to understand and quantify how the decision to detain an accused person
affects socio-economic rights, that is, the resources of individuals, including individuals other
than those being detained. Empirical evidence was obtained from interviews with detainees
and affected household members, identified through their visits to people detained, or
traced from people who are detained. Additional information was obtained from registers in
the relevant places of detention, and from prior pre-trial audits.
The places of detention selected for the study provided insight into pre-trial detention trends
and the impact on the greater urban areas of Nairobi, Maputo, and Lusaka. The project
found that while there are significant commonalities observed between the three urban
centres, there are also notable unique trends in socio-economic impact in each country.
Common to all three sites was evidence to support the contention that the decision to detain
an accused person before trial, almost invariably, interferes with the resources of individuals,
including individuals other than those being detained. The impact is felt by families and
other households associated with the detainee, and where the detainee is female, the
impact on children in particular, can be severe. Impact is generally immediate, but may have
enduring negative consequences from which a household struggles to recover..."

Full report attached.  

  • Geographical area: International
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