One of our recent cases has been cause for great celebration among our team, and demonstrates how important it is for juveniles to receive legal representation at trial to ensure that their rights are protected and their cases defended when they face criminal charges in Zambian courts. “Ben” (not his real name) was accused of being involved in the counterfeiting pf local currency. Law enforcement officers testified against him, claiming that and his housemate were behind known counterfeiting operations. But Ben persevered: he knew he had committed no crime, and wanted to fight to clear his name. Volunteer lawyers worked alongside Ben, following leads and tracking down witnesses in remote corners of Lusaka who could testify to his innocence and present his side of the story. Having heard all the evidence, the Magistrate agreed that Ben was not involved in counterfeiting and that law enforcement officers were protecting the true counterfeiters. Ben was found not guilty and released.
Without lawyers to investigate and build his defense, Ben could have faced time in prison for a crime he did not commit. Instead, he walked out of Court after months of detention. How did he celebrate his freedom? A hot shower, new clothes, lots of hugs from family and lawyers - and a strawberry milkshake. Ben is now passionate about assisting other juveniles facing similar circumstances and regularly joins in UP Zambia prison visits and helping UP Zambia volunteers track parents and witnesses for court proceedings. He hopes to find a local sponsor to help him continue his education and is interested in coming involved in juvenile justice as a career.
UP Zambia helps coordinate legal representation for juveniles like Ben, so that their rights are protected and their cases defended in court.