Rights campaigners launch study on Malawi Police use of outdated laws

The Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) are expected to launch a ground-breaking study on the Blantyre police’s use of outdated vagrancy laws to arrest and detain people for minor nuisance-related behaviour – a practice that appears to deliberately target the poor and marginalised.

A statement which Nyasa Times possesses says the purpose of this research – No Justice for the Poor: A Preliminary Study of the Law and Practice Relating to Arrests for Nuisance-Related Offences in Blantyre, was to ascertain the extent of police’s enforcement of offences relating to idle and disorderly persons and rogues and vagabonds in the Malawi’s commercial capital.

The statement adds that the research focused on the arrest practices of Blantyre and Limbe police stations and included interviews with police officers, magistrates and sex workers.

Home Affaies Minister Uladi Mussa and Police Chief Dzonzi: Ground breaking study
Home Affaies Minister Uladi Mussa and Police Chief Dzonzi: Ground breaking study

Project lawyer with SALC Anneke Meerkotter says the Malawi’s Penal Code provisions on rogues and vagabonds date back to the English vagrancy laws of previous centuries and “they are out of step in a modern constitutional democracy such as Malawi.”

Commenting on the findings, Executive Director at CHREAA Victor Mhango says “the harsh effects of these arrests for minor nuisance-related offences are felt most by the poor, who are unfairly targeted by these laws and who do not have easy access to legal representation or family resources once arrested.”

The launch is expected to be held in Huangshan Hall of the Golden Peacock Hotel in capital Lilongwe on Tuesday, July 9. Those expected to be in attendance include Minister of Justice – Ralph Kasambara, Inspector General of Police – Commissioner Loti Dzonzi, Deputy Dean of Law at Chancellor College – Chikosa Banda and Justice Edward Twea.


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