Mozambique national goal of strengthening justice services and make them accessible to all citizens received a major boost with the commissioning of the First Mobile Court of the Country.
The vehicles and other equipment that will constitute this innovative initiative where formally handed over to the Government by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through the Ministry of Justice, Constitutional and Religious Affairs and to the Supreme Court.
The aim of the mobile court in Mozambique is part of the strategy seeking to make the justice more flexible and accessible to the people in a context in which justice is becoming increasingly the translation of the culture and values of a population and the courts the forums where they find solutions for a just society, by making courts closer to people who seek justice services in the country.
Speaking on the Mobile Court handover ceremony on February 19, UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Narjess Saidane, noted that: “We are living in very difficult times as the COVID-19 pandemic has further amplified the challenges of responding to the demand for access justice and protection of human and fundamental rights. The pandemic compelled us to adapt and find alternative ways of providing services to guarantee the continuity of support to service provision for the Mozambican citizens.”
UNDP Resident Representative stressed that “When people do not have access to justice, they risk not seeing their rights fulfilled, they lose economic opportunities, they face discrimination and inequality, they are excluded from the socioeconomic context, and, ultimately, they remain at risk to be left behind. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, while access to justice, as the essence of the rule of law, is the main driver for achieving peace and sustainable development,” Ms. Saidane concluded.
Speaking at the same occasion, Mozambique Minister of Justice, Constitutional and Religious Affairs, H.E. Helena Kida, stated: “With the delivery of this first mobile Court, a pilot phase of a process begins. This will be instrumental for citizens who have to travel long distances to present their petitions, to obtain a trial, to see their legitimate rights respected”.
The Minister hailed the cooperation with UNDP in general and in particular to the support to the justice system saying: “This is one more step in speeding up accessibility to justice services, the reduction of procedural bureaucracy, the reduction of pre-trial detention periods without due process and trials, the granting of conditional liberties, among other benefits. “
“Ensuring access to justice also means taking relevant services where citizens cannot access them because they are not available close to the locations where they live. Mobile Courts are a positive response to the people’s demand of access to justice,” the Minister concluded.
Mozambique Supreme Court Presiding Judge, Adelino Muchanga, noted that the mobile courts are a major milestone for bringing justice closer to citizens, namely the reclassification of courts and the possibility for citizens to have access to courts located in the areas close to where they live. “Today we are witnessing yet another milestone. This is revolutionary in the way we approach access to justice, as justice is taken to the reach of all citizens. This is even more important for the needs of the elderly, pregnant women and people with special needs.”
“How many times are trials postponed and delayed because witnesses were not physically in court because this is too far from them?” Judge Muchanga asked the audience. The new court that we are receiving today is a mechanism for physical access to justice. Citizens cannot be compelled to travel and incur major costs and other inconveniences to access justice services,” the Judge concluded.
The mobile court is part of a joint initiative UNDP – Ministry of Justice, Constitutional and Religious developed in the context of the Project “Strengthening Access to Justice and Human Rights Protection 2018-2021” which strives to promote access to justice and to shorten distances between justice services and the most vulnerable people.
Unequal access to justice generates socio-economic inequalities, exacerbates poverty and grievances, enhances discrimination and stigmatization which are obstacles to the observance of human rights. Access to justice and protection of human rights are by their very nature key drivers and an accelerator for the Sustainable Development (SDG) Agenda 2030.
In Mozambique, with nearly 60% of the population living in remote areas, where justice institutions are at their least, and 46% living below the poverty line, access to justice to a large part of the population strives to see their right to a fast and equitable justice met. The COVID-19 Pandemic has further enlarged distances and deepened vulnerabilities, exposing the most vulnerable people, including people living in poverty and marginalized women at risk of being left behind. The Mobile Courts is, therefore, a mechanism to address this unequal access to justice.