Irish Rule of Law International has been working in Malawi since 2011. The current iteration of our programme works towards two specific objectives: to improve access to justice for adults and children; and to strengthen institutional capacity, coordination and accountability throughout the criminal justice system.
Across these two objectives, IRLI works to improve access to justice for the duration of an accused person’s criminal justice journey. IRLI therefore promotes respect for human rights and the rule of law from the point of arrest to sentence.
IRLI 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 support and to respond to gaps and areas in need of improvement.
Mwai Wosinthika programme, 2022
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. Irish Rule of Law International operates a child diversion programme called “Mwai Wosinthika”, which means “Chance for Change”. During the programme, children who have come into conflict with the law come to work with social workers from the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social welfare where they learn life skills and methods of changing their behaviour.
We continue to work closely with our long-standing partner the Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI) to hold community sensitisations. During these sessions, we travel to rural communities to educate people on their rights, and discuss the issues they face in relation to police and police reporting.
Training for dealing with vulnerable victims for paralegals and lawyers from the office of the DPP, 2022
IRLI’s holistic approach to access to justice 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 the Embassy of Ireland in Malawi, and has been previously supported by the European Commission and the Human Dignity Foundation.
Legal clinic hosted by IRLI partner the Gender Justice Unit, 2022
Some highlights from our 2022 Malawi programme:
- Partnered with the Mental Health Users and Carers Association of Malawi to provide mental health support for incarcerated individuals
- Worked with the Gender Justice Unit to assist victims of gender-based violence by carrying out legal aid clinics and workshops for victims of GBV
- Had twenty-five children graduate from two Mwai Wosinthika programmes held in May and October – this was more than double the number of children attending each session over the past two years
- Assisted 159 children (154 boys and five girls) appearing before the Child Justice Court, eighty-nine of whom were granted bail, sixty-five were diverted and ten discharged (593 children have been assisted since the start of the programme)
- Supported forty-eight homicide/infanticide bail applications, of which forty-four were successful and released from prison
- Reached 129 prisoners through legal aid clinics held this year
- Conducted more than sixty-five cell visits in five months to monitor compliance with the 48-hour rule and the number of children in detention
- Drafted eight legal opinions for the Director of Public Prosecutions, resulting in the closure of four historical files
- Carried out five community sensitisations, covering the rights of the accused persons. IRLI has now completed twenty-four sessions, reaching more than 4,000 people
- Organised a seminar for the Judges of Malawi where we Invited members from the Committee Against Torture in Africa to speak on the use of torture-tainted evidence
- Submitted a joint report to the UN committee Against Torture (CAT) in October 2022 with Reprieve and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) on the situation relating to torture in Malawi, and appeared before them to discuss its contents
- Held an event celebrating World Against the Death Penalty Day in Maula Prison on the 10 October 2022, with our partners Reprieve and the Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance
- Jointly organised a highly successful conference on Gender Research Dissemination, as part of the Malawi Irish Consortium on Gender based Violence
- Recruited committed and passionate people to our staff, including our new Alternative Justice Programme Officer, our programme lawyer with Malawi Police Service, and our new Judiciary lawyer
With thanks to the Embassy of Ireland in Malawi for its continued support of this programme.