Court Procedures, Student Perspective

Heinous Crimes Procedure – Fallon Seitz

I met two teenagers on remand. They were charged jointly along with two other adults for aggravated robbery. The four allegedly broke a window and stole $400 of alcohol. All four pled not guilty. The teenagers had recently found out the adults received sentences of 15 years, which is not the type of news you would want to hear after two years in an overcrowded prison. And by overcrowded, I mean they both sleep sitting upright because there is no room to lay down and both have contracted contagious skin infections.

Those accused of heinous crimes (e.g. aggravated robbery, murder and trafficking [including possession of >0.5 grams of marijuana]) may spend two years or more in jail on remand before they are found guilty or acquitted. In the best-case scenario, the accused will remain in custody over a month before entering a plea.

Police stations

The accused can be held in custody and interrogated at the police station for up to two weeks, as heinous crimes are not bailable. Sometimes police delay arraignment by shuffling accused offenders to other police stations, violating the accused’s right to see a magistrate within a reasonable time. The most egregious example of this shuffle has resulted in two months of the accused not seeing a magistrate.

Court process

The court proceedings for heinous crimes occur in the following order:

Subordinate court

  1. The accused’s case is called, and the court asks for the juvenile’s parents. If the parents are not present, most magistrates adjourn the matter for—at most—two weeks. During this time, the court may issue a removal warrant, ordering the arresting officer, the juvenile and UP Zambia to trace the parents before the next court date.
    • If the juvenile’s family cannot be traced (e.g. he lives by himself), the court dispenses with the requirement of the guardian’s presence, and the probation officer from the social welfare office acts as a surrogate guardian.
  1. Once the parents or guardians are present, the court will record their age, occupation, physical address, contact information and relation to the juvenile. With the parents or guardians present, the court confirms the juvenile’s age, occupation, and residential address. Furthermore, the court reads and explains to the juvenile their alleged offense.
    • Juveniles accused of heinous crimes do not plea at the subordinate court, because the subordinate court has no jurisdiction to try heinous crimes. The juvenile and their guardians merely appear for the charge to be read and explained. The court will keep explaining and simplifying the explanation of the charge to the juvenile until they understand the charge.
  1. The Director of Public Prosecutions (or DPP) oversees the prosecution of all criminal matters and evaluates the available evidence to determine whether a trial is warranted. If the evidence warrants a trial, the DPP issues a certificate of committal to the High Court. This certificate alerts the High Court of the upcoming trial. In most cases, however, the subordinate court grants the DPP’s motions of continuances, and the case lingers in subordinate court for months.
    • Before a certificate of committal has been issued, the magistrate—sua sponte or by a motion of the accused—can conduct a preliminary inquiry. After conducting this inquiry, the magistrate gives their opinion of the evidence produced on the record and can discharge the case. Even if a juvenile is discharged pursuant to the inquiry, the DPP can later re-arrest and prosecute the juvenile following the DPP’s evaluation of the evidence. The DPP can terminate the inquiry before it is completed by:
      1. Determining no probable cause exists and entering a nolle prosequi that discharges the accused.
      2. Determining probable cause exists and issuing a certificate of committal to the High Court.
  1. When a certificate of committal has been issued by the DPP the accused must wait for the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) to add the case to the High Court docket. The NPA determines the order in which cases are tried, and the NPA can several months to cause list a juvenile’s case to the High Court docket. The Judge in charge allocates the cause listed cases to other High Court judges.
    • With misdemeanors (i.e. non-heinous crimes) the cause-list wait time for subordinate court appellants is frequently lengthened by at least two months just for a file to be created, following a conviction at the subordinate court.

High court

  1. If the accused cannot afford an attorney, the state accords one to them through the Legal Aid Board. UP Zambia has a memorandum of understanding with the Legal Aid Board to assist with unrepresented juveniles in Lusaka. This MOU was borne out of necessity as the Legal Aid Board is severely backlogged, like some public defender’s offices in America.
      • Current Legal Aid Board legislation caps the number attorneys, which can only be increased by future legislation.
      • The PLEED program has successfully lobbied to introduce legislation that grants paralegals more powers to alleviate the Legal Aid Board.
  1. High Court judges travel circuits, sitting in different districts throughout the year. Therefore, cases allocated to judges can only be heard when that judge’s criminal session opens in the designated district. The unavailability of a designated High Court judge creates a backlog of cases, as criminal matters can only be heard at specific intervals.
  1. When a case has been cause-listed and a judge allocated, the judge’s clerk then provides court dates. At the first hearing in the High Court, the accused can formally plea. In the swiftest cases, the accused pleads within a month or two. In other cases, the accused waits over a year to finally plea.
  1. Trial can result in numerous delays. In the past, High Court judges have simply forgotten about a case due to their burdensome caseload. UP Zambia, reminds the court of cases that have gone cold as the accused’s file may go to the bottom of the pile.
  1. Once the trial concludes, the accused will wait for judgment. If found guilty, the court orders the juvenile to offer mitigating factors that will be considered for sentencing. Lastly, a juvenile’s sentence cannot be delivered without a social welfare report, which requires contact with the juvenile’s parents, guardian or in extraordinary circumstances, the report of the probation officer.


“Reform” School

After spending years in remand, convicted juveniles are often sentenced to a reformatory, approved or “prove” schools. These sentences are not reduced for time already served on remand. The sentence begins when the juvenile arrives at the prove school, which can occur months after judgment. Sometimes, the prisons cannot afford the petrol to transport the juveniles. In some instances, the juvenile is convicted and transported to a prove school in 5 months. In other cases, the accused is on remand for years as the proceedings are delayed ad infinitum.

Absolute Discharge

UP Zambia has successfully advocated for some convicted juveniles to receive an absolute discharge at sentencing, persuading the judge to consider the time they were on remand.

Counseling Orders

Probation orders are another favorable alternative. This conditional release requires the juvenile to regularly attend a counseling program, and this sentence is typically reserved for first-time, juvenile offenders.

The teenagers’ best-case scenario is absolute discharge, where the court recognizes their time-served as sufficient punishment. It’s not unprecedented, but it’s unlikely.

The teenagers’ most likely sentence is “reform” school, which would not recognize their time served in prison. The reform schools somehow negatively impact the juvenile’s demeanors worse than the overcrowded prisons. For example, one of the reform schools—Katamboro—implements a practice where more tenured juveniles are empowered to whip and pummel new arrivals into solemnity. Another reform school—Nakambala—has no fences and allows the community, notorious for drug abuse, to freely roam around the school grounds. At least you are serving your time.

The teenagers’ mood was not improved by our optimism, so I gave them my lunch, a couple of KIND bars. They walked away without saying much, but I hoped my group provided a brief respite to their despair. They were certain their fate would be fifteen more years, and they weren’t excited about spending a year in Katamboro—the juveniles have heard the stories of the disciplinary regime.

It will take time and people, like those in UP Zambia, to encourage the country to improve correctional intervention.

Student Perspective

Shared Humanity – Sarah Beth Toben

Simon Mwansa Kapwbepwe Police Station in Avondale, Zambia.

Today, Claire Mosley and I spoke to juveniles in the holding cell before court. Aaron, one of the UP Zambia interns aided us in interviewing the juveniles in their native language of Nyanja. As we interviewed the juveniles it truly became apparent to me that these are just teens who in a split second made one bad decision. We have all made bad decisions, especially as children and teenagers.


It is part of being human.


Some of the juveniles did not look much older than 13 or 14. The sorrow on their faces as they told their story of how they slipped up was disturbing. It did not seem to me that the juveniles were, or currently are, a threat to society. Instead, after talking to juveniles it sounded like they had each made a bad choice.

Headed to the Police Station to talk to a juvenile in the holding cell – L-R, UP Zambia Attorney Aaron Nachiya, Baylor Law students Sarah Beth Toben (post author), and Claire Mosley.

One of the juveniles, Michael, has not had a guardian present for a few weeks now.  Kabota, one of the UP Zambia interns believed that he had found the boy’s aunt after a few unsuccessful parent tracing adventures. Upon finding what he thought was Michael’s aunt, he informed her that she needed to attend court in order for Michael’s case to go forward and for him to have a chance at getting released from custody. Wednesday, the woman Kabota previously found was present, but upon arriving, she noticed that her nephew Michael was not the juvenile that was in custody. Unfortunately, for this Michael, this meant that he would have to remain in custody and his case would not go forward for yet another week since he did not have a guardian present.

The woman who was not the juvenile’s mother did make herself available after court to help sort out the guardian issue. The woman stated that she believed she could still be of aid and might know where the boy’s family lived. That evening after we got back to the office, Kabota received a phone call that the wrong women had found the correct guardian for the juvenile and gave her all the information for her to be able to attend court next week allowing Michael’s case to go forward.

Waiting in Court 1 for the Magistrate and Juveniles. L-R, Claire Mosley, Sarah Beth Toben, and Masokoble Mwanakulanga

This series of events led me to realize just how key the work of UP Zambia is to the entire juvenile criminal proceeding process. Without a guardian present, juveniles’ cases are limited in their ability to proceed. Without UP Zambia finding guardians for children and coaching juveniles up on what their rights are before they act as their own defense counsel (yes; often juveniles are unrepresented), the entire juvenile process would be bogged down even more than it is right now. Without UP Zambia absolutely no one would be working on behalf of these juveniles or attempting to ensure the fairest opportunity for them to turn their lives around after just one bad choice. Even in the midst of bad choices, if it were not for those around me who gave me unconditional love, encouragement, and a little kick in the butt to get moving in the right direction; I have no idea where I would be today. UP Zambia is all of the above and so much more, now they just need more hands to spread the work and love that is at the core of the program’s mission.

Post By:  Sarah Beth Toben
Baylor Law School

Student Perspective

Parent Tracing 101 – Claire Mosley

A big part of the juvenile justice system here in Zambia requires the presence of the juvenile’s parents and/or legal guardian. When a juvenile’s case is called one of the first things the judge asks is whether the parent or legal guardian is present. With no parent or guardian present when called, there is no possibility of bail for the child or for the proceedings to commence. So, the juvenile goes back to the remand prison that holds over 1,000 inmates, even though it was designed to hold just 400.

This is where UP Zambia steps in, and where our first experience as interns “parent tracing” begins.

When I first heard the words “parent tracing” the task sounded like a cross between the times I had spent playing spies at recess in elementary school and gathering information on potential interviewees on Facebook and Linkedin at one of my past summer internships. The task sounded mysterious- yet exciting.

Our first stop in parent tracing was Kamwala Remand Prison. It turns out that the juvenile whose guardians we were trying to find had been in Kamwala for about 3 months with each of the juvenile’s hearings being adjourned because no guardian was able to be present. The juvenile still had not entered a plea. Like many kids, this juvenile’s case had been stifled by the ability to find his legal guardians.

Therefore, UP Zambia asked for a removal warrant. This is a warrant that allows UP Zambia to take the juvenile, along with a police officer, and a social worker, out of the prison and guided by the juvenile’s instructions find his home. Here are some helpful tips that we learned along the way and recommend for any future interns that find themselves tasked with “parent tracing.”

1)    Practice a couple of phrases in Nyanja.

Most of the children in the remand prisons will be able to understand and speak some English. However, the local language in Lusaka is Nyanja- and the further outside the city you get, the more likely you will be able to find the juvenile’s guardians if you know some Nyanja. While some of our group was riding in the car with the juvenile, they were able to get to know him better and to open up by practicing a couple of greetings we had learned in Nyanja.

Over the past two weeks, all it takes is a couple of Mzungus trying to speak Nyanja to crack a smile on a juvenile or adult’s face and end up being received warmly by the generous and friendly people here in Zambia.

By breaking the ice, on the drive to the juvenile’s house, the group of interns was able to speak genuinely with the juvenile to learn the particulars about the offence he was charged with, his current living conditions in Kamwala, and ultimately advise him about his options of a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty” and the various consequences.

 2)    A car with 4-wheel drive is a necessity.

Most of the children that end up in Kamwala are from compounds, or communities, in and around the outskirts of Lusaka. While the majority of roads inside the city of Lusaka are paved, when heading out to the compounds, you will find yourself on a dry, dusty, and rocky road. As we headed towards the outskirts of Lusaka following the child’s lead, it became clear that we brought the wrong car. Fortunately, it was only later in the week in a more populated area when we would get our first flat tire driving on these rocky roads.

As resilient as our fellow Zambian law interns are, one can only be as resilient as their car when parent tracing leads you to a small community in the bush. Luckily, this was not the first of many parent tracing missions that had led our fearless interns and drivers into these small communities outside of Lusaka and they were able to maneuver rocks, potholes, and people, like champions.

 3)    Wear CASUAL clothes.

When parent tracing it is essential that you wear very casual clothes. Not only will you find yourself in places where there are varying levels of poverty, but you may find yourself with orange toes and legs from the dust courtesy of the dry season if closed-toe shoes and pants are not worn. In addition, it is important to dress casually in order not to alarm the communities. It is common for police officers, or other enforcement officers to be dressed professionally.

It is important to remember that you are entering a community usually with instructions of the juvenile who may not know his or her actual address or have one. You may have to ask around for the parents or guardians of ________, and try to get the most accurate information as possible while being respectful of the sensitivity of the matter. Nor do you want to overwhelm the parents/guardian’s who may be worried, scared, or anxious if they don’t know that their child has been taken to Kamwala or if you are really there to help them.

 4)    Pack a light lunch

Parent tracing can take 30 minutes or it may take 4 hours. Our experience was the latter. Working with juveniles is tricky, especially if you are trying to help a child that has been separated from their parents remember exactly which roads lead to their community, and other streets or houses that all look very similar. Our journey began by heading down one of the main roads in Lusaka, and then about an hour and a couple of wrong turns later venturing into one of the many dirt roads to find the juvenile’s house.

Upon finding the juvenile’s home, the real investigating and interviewing begins. Upon arriving at the juvenile’s home, we then had to locate his guardians. Luckily, it was around lunchtime and the juvenile’s guardians and siblings were home. However, this isn’t always the case. If UP Zambia is unable to get a phone number of a guardian because the child is unsure of the number, it truly is a game of cat and mouse. Most of the interns try to go parent tracing in the afternoon or around lunch to have better odds at finding the guardian’s at home or back from venturing to the store or into town for work.

Upon finding the guardian’s, the UP Zambia team then goes on to explain the situation. They get information about the child’s family, inform them of the charges against their child, the status of their case, and stress the importance that they make it to court for their child’s next hearing. Sometimes parents are relieved because they had no idea where their child had gone. Sometimes they know that their child has been arrested, however, they didn’t know about the necessity of their presence in court, how to get there, or maybe have the money to make the journey if they live far away.

 5)    Bring a soccer ball.

This suggestion is mainly for those missions of parent tracing with a couple of Mzungus tagging along. We would like to thank the UP Zambia team for their patience and grace for letting us tag along although it can be a bit of a distraction when it comes to translating.

When we reached the juvenile’s home, his siblings had just gotten out of school and were returning home for the afternoon. Because we were there talking to the family about a serious matter, and in the company of a police officer, interns, a social worker, and 4 girls- it was a bit overwhelming for the family. We decided to get to know the other siblings outside of the house so the parents could have some privacy to talk about the situation of their child. When playing or getting to know children, there is truly no other game like soccer, or football, where no language barrier exists and brings people together.

Therefore, we highly recommend bringing a soccer ball and enjoy having your 8th-grade soccer skills being put to shame by children below the age of 8.

 6)    Enjoy the ride and the company

While parent tracing, don’t forget to take some time and get to know your fellow passengers and see the sights right outside your window as well. For us, parent tracing has been a way to get to see the different sides of Lusaka, get to know our fellow interns, and the juveniles and their families as well.

Parent tracing is more than just a mission or a way to explore the city. It is essential to making sure justice is served for these children. Regardless of where a juvenile comes from or the reason they find themselves in court, when UP Zambia goes parent tracing these juveniles have an advocate and hope. They need UP Zambia. As a group, we are lucky to find ourselves among the next generation of leaders who are selflessly chasing after justice for juveniles and filling in the gaps.

Thank you UP Zambia!

The juvenile’s case in this story is being called again the following week. With the assurance that his parents will be able to make it, we are hopeful that he will be released and begin counseling as an alternative for the offense the juvenile allegedly committed. This will end his four-month stay in Kamwala remand prison that, without the help of UP Zambia, could have meant the child stayed in the remand prison- awaiting a proper sentencing and trial- for a long time.

Post By:  Claire Mosley
Baylor Law School

Student Perspective

Emmanuel – Robyn Leatherwood

Most of my mornings are spent in court observing juvenile cases. Occasionally, we go to the holding cells before court to interview new juveniles. That is how the past Thursday began:

We got to the holding cells and began seeing the kids. The first juvenile we interviewed was Emmanuel. He was wearing a thin shirt that was full of holes, basketball shorts, and flip-flops. Shivering as we interviewed him, our leader, Mpaso whispered that we should take him a sweater, as it can get pretty cold here at night. I took note of the comment, but due to the simplicity of this kid’s case, I was sure he would be released that day and allowed to go home.

However, that’s the exact opposite of what happened. Thanks to some procedural issues, his case was adjourned. This meant he was going to sit in those same clothes for the next few weeks as the temperature kept dropping. My heart sunk, but unfortunately, we are working on so many time-sensitive cases right now that one cold teen can end up toward the bottom of the priority list.

It wasn’t until 3:45 P.M. that we realized we had gotten caught up in our work and we had forgotten to take him a jacket. The jail closed in 15 minutes, and we were a solid 30 minutes away. I grabbed the bag Mpaso had prepared for him, and we jumped in the car. The whole way there Mpaso just kept telling Ashley and me that until we are refused entry, there is hope.

It was around 4:15 when we flew into the gravel parking lot. I quickly hopped out while they waited in the car, and ran in my suit to the front door. Thankfully, the guard recognized me and I was let in even though visiting hours were over. I couldn’t believe I had made it.

Then the reality quickly hit me that there I was all alone, sitting in an adult male prison waiting to see a kid I barely knew. When Emmanuel finally walked up to the gate, I excitedly waved to him. Confused, he came over and sat down next to me on the wooden bench. I asked if he spoke English, to which he responded, “a little”. I told him how I had seen him earlier and I saw that he was cold. As I began to pull out the sweaters and socks Mpaso had packed, a look of relief came over him. He proceeded to physically get on the floor thanking me. I was stunned as he sat kneeling on the floor clutching every article of clothing I handed him. All I could tell him as I held his hands was how I hoped that tonight he would be warm.

That was when it all clicked for me. I understood why people give up everything to do this work. Our moment of genuine human connection was worth more than any salary I could imagine. I know that, by providing him with a few nights of warmth, I have impacted Emmanuel’s life, but I don’t think he will ever know how our time together has changed mine.

Post By:  Robyn Leatherwood
Baylor Law School
Candidate for Juris Doctor, 2020

Student Perspective

My First Week in Zambia – Ashley K. Richardson

Zambian law students- and UP Zambia interns- converse with the author during her UP Zambia orientation. Standing, L-R, Aaron Machiya, Chimbalanga Wapamesa, Kabota Chipopola, Mpaso Nguluwe. Seated, the author Ashley Richardson, and Mainza Natala.

Nikukonda mazanga wanga.” Arriving in Zambia, I had no idea how meaningful this phrase would be to me. Simply translated, it means  “I love you my friend” in Nyanja. As we have been immersed in love and welcomed with open arms, I am constantly reminded of how blessed we are to be a part of the UP Zambia team. This phrase was one of the first that Mainza, Mpaso and Chimbalanga (Zambian Law Students who intern for UP Zambia) taught me in Nyanja. It is one that has constantly replayed through my mind as I heard stories of cases, observed court hearings and visited Kamwala Remand Prison during our first week here. It has also been a phrase that has given me the opportunity to replenish the love that the UP Zambia team has unconditionally poured into the lives of juveniles.

Debrief of Court Observation, led by: Kelly Kapianga, UP Zambia staff-attorney, and a Zambian Magistrate
Baylor Law team members, Dean Leah Teague, Robyn Leatherwood, Claire Mosley, Ashley Richardson, Sarah Beth Toben and Beth Toben.

This simple phrase has become a way to recognize and encourage the selfless individuals that have served UP Zambia in the past few years. For this new generation of Zambian Attorneys, love and compassion are the building blocks for reforming a legal system that has failed so many. The UP Zambia team literally touches the lives of their clients—giving out blankets and shoes, speaking with parents, and fighting for justice in and out of the courtroom. The friends I have made here remind me daily that a single attorney can change the lives of many. Each day before I leave the office, the members of UP Zambia tell me, “Nikukonda mazanga wanga,” the phrase I will keep in mind for the rest of my legal career.

Post By: Ashley K. Richardson
Baylor Law School
Candidate for Juris Doctor, 2020

Project Overview

Undikumbukire – An Introduction From Brian Serr

Undikumbukire.” I frequently remind my students that one word can make a difference. For Sara Larios, an American lawyer practicing commercial law in Zambia, it was hearing that one word — “Undikumbukire” – that made all the difference. It made a difference in the direction of Sara’s life and legal career. It made a difference in the quality of justice obtained in Zambian criminal courts. And, most importantly, it has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of Zambian children and their families.

“Undikumbikure” means “Remember me.” Sara intended only to deliver blankets to children detained in an adult prison in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city, but when she left they pleaded with her not to forget about them. “Remember me.” “Undikumbukire.” And Sara remembered. But how can a lawyer “remember” kids detained in an adult prison, sometimes for years before their cases are completed, often without access to a lawyer at any stage of the case, without feeling the call to represent them? Sara is unique – the only American lawyer licensed to practice law in Zambian courts – but she had no background in criminal law or juvenile law.

That lack of criminal justice experience, and the resulting lack of confidence that she could effectively represent them, proved to be no match for that one word: “Undikumbukire.” With a promise of help from two of her friends and colleagues, Sara co-founded Undikumbukire Project Zambia in 2015. Also known as UPZambia, the project partners with Zambian courts, prisons, and defender services, and now exercises the primary responsibility for defending hundreds of juveniles who are tried for crimes in Zambian courts.

Beginning this week, Sara and UPZambia will be supported in their mission to bring timely justice to Zambian children by Baylor Law students. Eight students will be performing 30-day externships with UPZambia over the course of this summer. Four students have already arrived and are being trained this week. They are Robyn Leatherwood, Claire Mosley, Ashley Richardson, and Sarah Beth Toben. The four who will be traveling with me to Zambia in late June are Daniel Basham, Ashley Shultz, Fallon Seitz, and Kaitlyn Yanes. I expect these eight students to have a life-changing adventure, one that will be of direct benefit to Zambian children and the Zambian justice system.

Baylor Law. Zambian Justice. Undikumbukire Project Zambia.