Since 2011, IRLI has been working in Malawi to improve access to justice for unrepresented accused people. Within this core mandate, IRLI has two specific objectives:

  • Institutional capacity-building; and
  • Improved access to and availability of legal aid services for detainees and accused people held in custody.

Across these two specific objectives, IRLI works to improve access to justice for the duration of an accused person’s entire criminal justice journey. IRLI therefore promotes respect for human rights and the rule of law from the point of arrest to sentence.

Irish and international lawyers are seconded to the principal institutional actors in the criminal justice system: the Legal Aid Bureau, the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Malawi Police Service. The lawyers work alongside their Malawian counterparts to provide peer-to-peer mentoring and to respond to gaps and areas in need of improvement.

The former Magistrates Court in Nkhotakhota District, which is now used by Traditional Chiefs for traditional justice matters, February 2019.

In addition, IRLI works on 'alternative justice processes' with local partners to complement its work with adults and children in detention, by promoting alternatives to prison in the first place.

2018 Graduates of our Child Diversion Programme, Mwai Wosinthika.

IRLI’s holistic approach enables the programme to target each component of the justice system and ensures that the promotion of cooperation and coordination between key institutions is a consistent thread running through all of IRLI’s activities. Our work is supported by Irish Aid in Malawi, and has been previously supported by the European Commission and the Human Dignity Foundation.

Training for Police Prosecutors as Part of IRLI's Advocacy Training  Programme in Lilongwe, 2020.

In the last year, IRLI has:

  • Established an NGO Advocacy group comprised of civil society organisations, and took a lead in advocating that Malawi’s COVID-19 response include prisons.
  • Trained 29 Malawi Police Service officers on child justice issues (1,947 police officers since the programme began).
  • Facilitated 15 legal aid clinics and 10 camp courts reaching 575 prisoners (2,088 prisoners have received legal services since the start of the programme).
  • Assisted 171 children appearing before the Child Justice Court, 142 of whom were granted bail and 23 were diverted back into the community (300 since the start of the programme).
  • Completed 99 bail applications for adults, out of which 91 were successful (300 bail applications since the start of this program).
  • Held 6 bail and victim impact statement training courses reaching 118 Criminal Investigations Departments (CID) and prosecution police officers (253 officers trained throughout the programme to date).
  • Trained 15 police prosecutors on trial advocacy and evidential concepts.
  • Trained 48 magistrates on of Domestic Violence Act and self-defence (On average 50 magistrates trained 8 times over the past four years).
  • Held child diversion workshops, Mwai Wosinthika, from which 65 children graduated (IRLI have held 12 of these workshops reaching 232 children over 4 years).
  • Held two community sensitisations covering the rights of the accused which were delivered to 300 community members and traditional leaders (IRLI have held 18 sessions reaching over 2,700 community members since the program began).

With thanks to Irish Aid for its continued support of this programme.

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