Malawi’s prisoners have expressed grave concern that 63 years after the Universal Declaration of Human rights and 16 years after Malawi ratified the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Charter through the enactment of the 1995 Kwacha Conference Centre Republican Constitution, the wheels of justice in the country’s judicial system worryingly continue to drag at a snail’s pace.
The inmates also said that Malawi prisons are congested and have poor living and sanitation conditions. They said they lack legal representation and that sometimes they are duped by unscrupulous lawyers who allegedly collect money from them and their relatives on the pretext of representing their cases..
The prisoners made the remarks on 9th December 2011 during a panel discussion organised by The Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) to mark this year’s World Human Rights Day at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre Malawi.
The inmates say although there may be some progress, Malawian prisoners are still being denied the right to access due process of the law.
They say their basic civil liberties and human rights continue being denied mainly due to the judicial system’s unnecessary institutional red tape, funding constraints and lack of sense of urgency in delivering justice.
Boxton Kudziwe, a representative of Chichiri Prison inmates notes that Malawi’s Prisons and courts still hold a lot of remandees for a long time without giving them a chance to a reasonably fair and speedy trial. He said this is a form of mental torture.
“It is disturbing that in in some cases, remandees can go through a trial but again they have to be remanded here for up to 24 months without getting a judgement. The question is will the judge or magistrate really make a fair assessment of the facts of the case and evidence 24 months after hearing testimony? This is a miscarriage of justice,” said Kudziwe.
Chichiri Prison for instance, has cases of inmates Charles Scott Lagos (Murder) arrested in 2006. He was tried in early 2010 but has been awaiting judgement for 15 months. Anorher is Mayeso Tayimu (Robbery) has been awaiting judgement for 24 months.
Kirk Hollingsworth, British High Commission Charge de Affairs, whose government supports the Disease Screening Program at Chichiri Prison through CHREAA, said at the function that promotion and protection of marginalised citizens, including prisoners’, human rights is at the heart of the British government’s mission in Malawi.
He said, under section 42 of the Malawi constitution, prisoners have the right to be detained under conditions consistent with their human dignity.
The panel discussion brought together prisoners, the assistant registrar of the high court of Malawi, the Police, Malawi Prisons and the Law Society of Malawi. It was aimed at identifying ways of advancing prisoners’ human rights.
In his remarks in a national address on World Human Rights day, President Bingu wa Mutharika said his government has made progress in ensuring human rights for Malawian.
He cited absence of political prisoners and political assassinations as one of the tell tale signs of progress.
Mutharika also said murder convicts have been committed to life imprisonment as opposed to execution.
According to available information, below is a list of some of Homicide inmates and period of awaiting judgement at Chichiri Prison as at 12/12/11.
CHREAA ‘s probono program is trying to advance some of these cases.
NAME PERIOD DISTRICT
1. Charles Lagos Scotch 1 year 6 Months Chikwawa
2. Allan Francis Tebulo Phiri 1 year 6 Months Chiradzulo
3. Victoria Phillimon 1 year 6 Months Mwanza
4. Nelson Rheno 1 year 6 Months Chikwawa
5. Peter Amoni 1 year 6 Months Chikwawa
6. Yowasi Yesani 1 year Chikwawa
7. Damiano Petro 1 year Thyolo
8. Enock Chipembere I year Blantyre
9. Million Chambakata 1 year Chikwawa
10. Twaliki Moses 1 year Blantyre
11. Lucious Byton March 2010 Chiradzulo
12. Frank Jeremia June 2011 Mwanza
13. Rapheal Chinkono May 2011 Chiradzulo
14. Clifford Chathyoka February 2011 Chikwawa
15. John Edwin Tangwe April 2011 Chiradzulo
16. Kalimon Yakobe October 2011 Chiradzulo
17. Zondiwe Thomson June 2011 Chikwawa
18. Wyson Barnet March 2011 BlantyreFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :