Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
THE Virtual Court in Zimbabwe, which has been in operation since the beginning of the year, uses specified platforms to operate outside of social media.
Zimbabwe is in the first phase of the Integrated Case Management System (IECMS), commissioned on February 7, 2022.
Under the IECMS, the Magistrates Court is remanding cases virtually; the Commercial Court, Supreme Court and Constitutional Court are already hearing trials virtually.
The IECMS system is a web-based Case Management System which automates and tracks all aspects of a case life cycle, from initial filing through disposition and appeal.
The system allows for information sharing between systems from all stakeholders in the judiciary.
In the future, the system will integrate with systems from organisations such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, Law Society of Zimbabwe, Attorney General’s Office, National Prosecuting Authority, Legal Aid Directorate and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Court.
This is in line with implementing the Government and Judicial Service Commission policy to take the justice delivery system to the people in line with National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
Judicial Service Commission Head of Corporate Services, Mr Daniel Nemukuyu said the virtual court uses platforms such as IECMS virtual hearing feature, Starleaf and Virtual Court Management System, which is monitored every day to curb infiltration.
“The virtual hearings don’t use social media platforms. The systems were specifically designed for the courts,” said Mr Nemukuyu.
“The system is built in the current and modern architecture which has the database in an offline state. A database is where all the information is stored. When a hacker hacks a system, he or she will have access to the database.
“Normally, systems with online databases are the ones that are hacked. Penetration tests also have been done during the testing of the system. The Judicial Service Commission will also have personnel who will work 24 hours monitoring the system and running intrusion tests to avoid hacking.”
Mr Nemukuyu said some prisons have been integrated into the system so that inmates can appear for hearings.
“The courts are linked to at least one prison facility and these virtual courts have lessened the burden on the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services in the transportation of prisoners to and from prison for remands. Witnesses can participate virtually, as they can go to the nearest JSC court and join in the hearing,” said Mr Nemukuyu.
For example, Mr Nemukuyu said inmates at Khami Prison complex can appear for hearings virtually as there is a connection to the Bulawayo Provincial Court 3 in the city.
Under this system, witnesses can follow cases from their phones, tablets, laptops or computers as long as they have an internet connection and have registered on the system.
“If you have internet on your device, open your web browser (opera, Google chrome, safari, internet explorer) and type in the url www.zimiecms.org.zw.
“A page will open which will ask you either to login if you have already created an account or ‘Register’, if you don’t have an account.
“For a person to use the system, they have to register. Registering is creating an account within the system which will be accessible using the passwords provided. With this account, a citizen can file a case at any of the active registries. When the system is fully implemented, all registries will be active,” said Mr Nemukuyu.
He said Virtual Courts in the criminal division of the High Court and Magistrates’ Court will be launched next year.
“Therefore, suspects on bail are not being tried virtually. Ideally, and by benchmarking with other countries when a sentence is being handed down after a conviction, the accused has to be available physically in court,” said Mr Nemukuyu.
He explained how witnesses connect to the system when there is a hearing for a case of interest.
“Parties to a case receive a link of the hearing, if one is not a party, they have to make a request prior to the hearing to the registrar of the respective court. However, the individual will need to have an account on IECMS. For the courts in the second phase of implementation, a litigant can visit the Harare Magistrates Court and Harare High Court for assistance,” said Mr Nemukuyu.
He said besides the hearings, the system will enable people to file their cases online and follow them until their finality.
Mr Nemukuyu said those who don’t have internet access can get assistance from courts around the country.
“The Judicial Service Commission has courts in all provinces and districts in Zimbabwe and is setting up e-filing centres which will be equipped with computers and internet. Any citizen can visit these centres for assistance and to use the computers and internet for filing free of charge,” said Mr Nemukuyu.
However, he said only the people who are involved in a case will have access to virtual hearings. — Follow on Twitter @bonganinkunzi
Article Source: The Chronicle