Final thoughts on the HIV case postponement
May 20, 2009
So the only reason for the postponement was that the lawyer assigned to the case from the Attorney-General’s office was unable to come to Livingstone from Lusaka for the trial today. A few reasons why I find this surprising. First, the date of the trial has been set for months now and both sides have been informed of the date. Second, Paul Mulenga the lawyer for the two men, has communicated with the Attorney-General’s office regarding this case as recently as last week. Third, for those of you who may not know Zambian geography, Livingstone is an hour plane ride or a 5 hour bus ride from Lusaka. There are daily flights from Lusaka to Livingstone. There are also regular buses throughout the day from Lusaka to Livingstone.
Some of the people I spoke with today thought that maybe the Attorney-General’s office was not prepared for the case and they needed the extra time. I don’t know what the real reason is.
Now most lawyers will tell you that postponements happen all the time. And they are right. They do. But here is the thing: The two men at the heart of this case have been waiting for a trial date for a year and a half. They have taken time off to prepare for the trial. A number of experts and other witnesses have taken time off to travel from Lusaka to Livingstone for this trial. They did this because the Court provided a date for the trial well in advance so that all parties could be prepared.
From conversations with folks in the region, ordinary individuals are hesitant to take part in public interest litigation partly because they remain wary of the havoc the litigation process tends to entail. A postponement such as this, for reasons as unconvincing as the inability to travel such a short distance, only serves to reinforce such wariness.
Given the postponement we obviously will not be blogging from the trial this week (we will be picking it up when the case goes to trial 15 July), but we will continue to use this blog to discuss critical legal human rights issues in the southern Africa region. We hope that you continue to read and participate in the discussion.