Professor Raphael Heffron

May 13, 2021 | posted by | 5sc

In the latest in our series profiling Irish and Northern Irish Lawyers who have worked abroad, we spoke with Professor Raphael Heffron, who is originally from Cobh in County Cork and works in the energy and climate sector. He is one of the foremost scholars in the world on energy justice, which is about the application of human rights across the energy life-cycle, i.e. applying the rule of law in the energy sector. He has published over 140 publications of different types and is the most cited scholar in energy law worldwide (1340+Scopus). Professor Heffron has also received an EU Jean Monnet Professorship and the youngest ever to receive it twice (in 2016 and 2019); it is one of the highest awards for non-science academics in the EU. He is also elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland in 2018.

Keynote Speaker at The World Energy Summit in 2018 in Inner Mongolia in China, where Raphael spoke alongside 4 Nobel Prize Winners

Keynote Speaker at The World Energy Summit in 2018 in Inner Mongolia in China, where Raphael spoke alongside 4 Nobel Prize Winners

IRLI: What is your background/training?

RH: I graduated from TCD and qualified as Barrister-at-Law at King’s Inns, and also then a graduate of both Oxford (MSc) and Cambridge (MPhil & PhD). It was at Cambridge where I fully specialised in energy working with an interdisciplinary energy team there and also visiting MIT in the US with their interdisciplinary team as part of my PhD program.

Why did you become interested in legal work?

I was initially interested in impacts on the environment which I attribute to growing up on Great Island where Cobh town is. On such a small island, the environment and the impact of human activity is more visible. I thought law was an opportunity to protect those interests and at the same time enable development for such small communities.

What do you hope to achieve from the work you are doing?

As I studied and learned more, I gradually began to focus on the energy sector in my Masters degree at Cambridge and stayed on for a PhD. My work now focuses in a major way on ensuring justice - i.e. fairness, equality, equity and inclusiveness – in the energy sector. I have visiting appointments in universities in Asia, Africa and the EU, and in the past in the Americas. I hope through my teaching to encourage the next generation of ‘justice’ scholars worldwide.

For me, a lot of the problems start in the energy sector, and if we solved our energy problems we would have less damaging environmental impacts and less climate change issues. For example, the energy sector is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases which is causing climate change so if we can change the energy sector we will go along way to solving the climate crisis. I hope to contribute in some small way to resolving our energy and climate crisis.

Receiving honours for work on energy law from the Emir of Keffi in Nigeria

Can you tell us some of your professional experiences that have left quite a mark on you personally?

I have been fortunate to be invited to many places in the world to speak on international and national energy law, policy and economics. There are different challenges in different countries, but I guess, for me, it is about educating or talking to different groups about the boundaries of law in the energy sector. I have given talks in 45 countries across the world to-date, so there have been many joyous experiences. Perhaps a memorable one was as a keynote speaker alongside 4 Nobel Prize Winners at the World Energy Summit in 2018 in China.

What gives me the satisfaction is that more and more people are interested in the application of justice (i.e. the rule of law) in the energy sector. I see this through those invitations I receive, but also in that my work has been translated into Chinese, Persian, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.

This is an exciting time in the energy sector as many researchers from other disciplines such as engineering, the sciences, and the social sciences are and want to work on justice issues. Never before have so many wanted to work with the legal community and I think we need to capitalise on this momentum. We need to think about new ideas and opportunities to continue the engagement and that is where I have great expectations for IRLI !!!!

You are a Professor of Global Energy Law & Sustainability and Jean Monnet Professor in the Just Transition at the University of Dundee, what does this work entail?

It involves teaching and research on energy law and sustainability. I am also an EU Jean Monnet Professor in the Just Transition, which is a broader topic than just energy and looks at the wider societal aim of a low-carbon economy. I spoke at the same event last year as President O’Higgins on the just transition, and it’s a big issue in Ireland and the world-over on how we switch our economies to be based on clean rather than dirty energy.

I do a lot of research on these issues across the world and with collaborators from across the world in research and legal practice. I also teach on energy and just transition issues at Dundee, which has the leading international research and teaching expertise on energy law and policy in the world, at the world famous Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law & Policy. It is an honour to be here and, in many ways, as academics, we are holding the institution and improving it for the next generation.

Given the problems in the energy sector globally, we need to do a lot of research and teaching in this area. Unfortunately, past generations were a bit too focused on profit and development, hopefully we can change the cycle and improve equality and justice in the energy sector and in a boarder way achieve a just transition to a low-carbon economy.

You are also a lawyer at Jansons in Brussels, Belgium, what do you do there?

I was just appointed late last year in December as Senior Counsel, which is a huge honour. I look forward to working on exciting cases around the world where they work. But it is too early to say what cases, ask me in a year!

At a mine decommissioning project in the east of the island of Java, Indonesia

Why did you decide to work abroad?

It was a gradual process, but I guess, I was prompted by a desire to work on big large-scale energy projects. The reality was post the 2007-2009 crash, when there were more opportunities abroad, and to work in the energy sector it is vital to have experience abroad. I am lucky enough now to work at the oldest and leading research and teaching centre on energy law in the world, so I embrace the opportunity, despite missing the old sod!

What drives you to do what you do?

Energy for me is an exciting area, we all use it everyday, whether it be for our cars or electricity in our houses. It is great to be in such a fast moving industry and one that everyone has some familiarity with. It is unfortunate that it is considered one of the most corrupt and also environmentally damaging sectors of the world. Hopefully I can play a role in changing that.

What sort of an impact would you like to make?

I am researcher and an educator, so for me, hopefully I teach the next generation on justice in the energy sector and also that my research can be taken forward by politicians and into policy-making. I have spoken at the UN Headquarters, the Australian Parliament and also the Canadian Parliament a couple of weeks ago and it's rewarding. However, the real impact, I guess, which I will not see in many cases is that students will take on what I teach and some will teach the same lessons of justice in our society to their students across the world.

Would you like to work elsewhere?

You just get one life, so there is only so much you can do! I learnt that you have to go work hard if you want to be a success. There is a famous golfer who said the harder he worked the luckier he got. We can work hard and go for it and that’s what I have done! I would have liked may other careers, but we can not be greedy in life and I am fortunate to have this one. Suffering is caused every day in different parts of the world because of the energy sector, and my role is to contribute to alleviating some of that.

Draped in the Trini flag as Keynote Speaker in Trinidad & Tobago on the International Just Transition Conference and also where Raphael works as a Visiting Professor at the University of West Indies

Your advice to young people entering the legal profession?

Yes, today a law student needs to engage in data, understanding for example, climate, energy and environmental data will be crucial in legal contracts and cases in the future. It will also be useful for a wide variety of other areas in crime, medical law etc. We produce more data each day and this trend will only continue. Doing some data science course will have a strategic benefit for your entire career. I would do a Masters in it if I had the opportunity!

Anything else that you would like to add?

Yes, inequality is on the rise across the world and I hope all potential lawyers remember in their decision-making that principles of justice need to be behind their decisions. We need to leave a fairer and sustainable world for future generations. 

Instruments that can be Advocated and Used in Tanzania to Improve Child Victim Protection

May 13, 2021 | posted by | 5sc

By David Siess

A justice system which guarantees the respect and the effective implementation of all children’s rights to the highest attainable level, bearing in mind the principles of participation, best interests of the child, dignity and protection from discrimination and giving due consideration to the child’s level of maturity and understanding and the circumstances of the case. It is, in particular, justice that is accessible, age appropriate, speedy, diligent, adapted to and focused on the needs and rights of the child, respecting the rights of the child including the rights to due process, to participate in and to understand the proceedings, to respect for private and family life and to integrity and dignity.

This is how the Council of Europe defines a “child-friendly justice”. An approach that shall be a point of reference, but also a goal for many justice systems worldwide since the lack of recognition of children's needs and rights in Tanzania and in justice systems across many countries remains a concern.

Where children are victims of crime, special challenges and demands are placed on the justice system in order to meet the needs of children. This confronts justice systems around the globe with problems for which answers and solutions must be found. A problem in this context that is also evident in Tanzania, but not only there, is that criminal proceedings are generally aimed at clarifying the nature of an offence and punishing the alleged offender. With this focus comes the danger that the proceedings lose sight of the fact that the rights and needs of victims must also be respected. This is especially the case for children who have been victims of violence - who due to their vulnerability and ongoing developmental process need special attention, and effective measures that protect them from secondary and repeat traumatisation. Criminal proceedings can be particularly stressful for children, who risk further traumatisation if the procedures are not adapted to their needs and made “child-friendly”.

After a long-time of under-prioritisation of child-victim protection laws, child and victims’ rights have started to receive more attention during the last decades at the level of the United Nations (UN) and later the European Union (EU). Efforts in this regard have gradually reached the African Union (AU) and their member states to guarantee the basic principles of guaranteed participation of children in procedures and decisions concerning them, the direction of all actions towards their best interests, as well as respect for the dignity of the child and protection against discrimination.

To address this challenge in Tanzania, together with our partners and to advocate for improved conditions for children's rights, we have analysed the approaches taken by countries such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Malawi to identify lessons that can be applied in Tanzania.

Certain legal instruments have emerged as the core of each approach:

A comprehensive right to information during the entire proceedings about all relevant facts, such as offers of legal, psychological and medical assistance ensured by communication that is appropriate for the child and comprehensible to him or her in every way, has to be established.

This must be accompanied by the creation of these offers of legal and psychological and medical assistance, among other things, with the possible accompaniment of parents or other representatives, prior to the actual proceedings and in order to exclude possible development-related disadvantages for the child in the proceedings.

A further focus is to be placed on a comprehensive protection of the child's privacy and personal rights during every stage of the proceedings in order to prevent disruption to the child's development process as much as possible and to keep the burdens involved with the procedure as low as possible. This is achieved through measures to exclude the public and to keep the child's identity secret.

Specific measures such as a prioritisation of child-related cases and special qualifications of all persons involved must be taken in a child-friendly environment to direct the course of proceedings towards the needs of the child. This especially applies to interrogation situations during the pre-trial stage and to the courtrooms. Wherever possible, proceedings shall continue in the absence and without the participation of child. Instead, video recordings of the interrogation should be used as evidence.

Since there is no such comparable standard in Tanzania at present, work must be done towards establishing a comprehensive and structured codification of victims' rights which secures the above rights of children and implements these measures.

Child Diversion in Malawi

May 09, 2021 | posted by | 5sc

Our Child Diversion programme in Malawi centers on diverting children, who come into conflict with the law, away from the formal criminal justice system. 29 children, aged between 10 and 17, were placed on our programme this past year and we are delighted to start profiling some of those who have taken part.

The child diversion programme, called Mwai Wosinthika (‘A Chance for Change’), is a 12-session, pre-trial diversion programme, facilitated in collaboration with the Malawi Ministry of Gender and other partner agencies. Child protection officers from the Ministry of Gender take the children through different topics aimed at supporting and empowering them to change their circumstances, pursue their goals, and make positive and informed choices. Many sessions are activity-based, allowing the children to interact more freely.

Our programme is one of only a few programmes that exist in the country which offer an alternative to detention for children accused of crimes. The facilitators empower young people, who frequently turn to crime as a result of poverty, by teaching them about professional goals and connecting them to various vocational resources as well as giving them the responsibility and choice to change their behaviour, so that they can create better lives for themselves.

Here’s one great testimony from 17 year old Siphiwe (we’ve used a pseudonym to protect her identity)

IRLI: Tell us about your life in Malawi? 

S: My life in Malawi is great, I live with my mother.

What sort of difficulty with the law were you involved with?

I used to fight at school and at home. I used to also participate in illegal betting activities in the streets and go into bars. That’s how I found myself to be selected for the Mwai Wosinthika programme to help me change, and I really have. I don’t do any of those things anymore.

How has the IRLI’s Child Diversion programme benefited you?

The programme has helped me prevent a lot of things in my life, for instance getting into fights, like I used to, and also not surrounding myself with people who were bad influences in my life.

Do you feel happy to have been involved in the programme? 

The programme really changed my life for the better and I am really happy that I took part in it. It helped me become a more patient and peaceful person and not get into arguments with people all the time, and it has helped prevent me from the possibility of entering the formal justice system.

What would you like to do with the remainder of your life?

I would like to find work where I can use my hands. I am really good at hair braiding, so I would like to open up my own hair salon one day.

Recruitment: Consultant

May 07, 2021 | posted by | 5sc

Terms of Reference

Irish Rule of Law International’s Access to Justice Programme in Malawi

Consultant for Development of New Programme Proposal


Irish Rule of Law International (IRLI) seeks the services of a consultant to assist it in developing a new multi-year project proposal for the Embassy of Ireland.

Irish Rule of Law International (IRLI) is an initiative of the Law Society of Ireland, the Bar of Ireland, the Law Society of Northern Ireland and the Bar of Northern Ireland, dedicated to promoting the rule of law in developing countries.

IRLI’s programme in Malawi aims to improve access to justice for unrepresented accused persons in the criminal justice system in targeted areas in the Central Region of Malawi. The approach is two-fold: capacity building of criminal justice institutions, and support of direct legal service provision. A Programme Lawyer (PL) is seconded to each of the key criminal justice institutions, namely the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB), Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the Malawi judiciary. IRLI also works with the Ministry of Gender on a child diversion programme for children in conflict with the law.

In each institution, the PLs works to build relationships based on mutual trust and respect, in order to support the institution in enhancing access to justice for vulnerable persons. IRLI seeks to remove obstacles to access to justice in the short-term in order to bring about immediate change at beneficiary level, while also developing systemic, sustainable interventions aimed at providing long-term benefits in the wider criminal justice sector.

The current programme is funded primarily by the Irish Embassy to Malawi (July 2016 - August 2020), with a new grant approved from September 2020 – August 2021, and was funded by the European Union Delegation (December 2016 – December 2019, with a no cost extension until March 2020).


As the current programme is coming to an end, IRLI needs to develop a comprehensive and exciting multi-year project proposal for the Embassy of Ireland that complements the Embassy’s strategic plan (to be provided). This consultant will capitalise and build on the lessons learned and successes achieved from the previous programme, while also eliciting and identifying what did not work and engaging with the Malawi team to devise suitable alternatives.

The consultant will bring to the programme previous design process experience from developing and writing successful integrated, multi-sectoral, proposals involving several stakeholders for institutional donors. It is desirable that the consultant also brings a good understanding of issues relating to access to justice, Malawian law, international law and human rights. Building upon this experience, the consultant will help develop the programme proposal for responding to the needs of the justice sector. This will require scoping, reviewing, analysing, and integrating existing plans, projects, and areas of expertise. 

An organisational review of IRLI has recently been conducted, as has an end-of-programme evaluation of the Malawi programme specifically; the consultant will use the findings and recommendations of these reports to further inform the project proposal.

The evaluation aims to:

1. Collate and analyse lessons learned, challenges faced and best practices established during the implementation period.

2. Develop a comprehensive and dynamic project proposal for the Embassy of Ireland;

3. Develop an informed and appropriate monitoring and evaluation framework for the proposal;

4. Develop an accurate and ambitious budget proposal.




The evaluation will combine qualitative and quantitative data collection and evaluation techniques using the following methods:

  • • Desk-based review: The consultant will review relevant programme documents and content produced before and during programme implementation, including previous evaluations, programme proposals, work plans, annual and interim reports;
  • • Retreat with the Malawi Team: a retreat with the Malawi Team will be conducted to offer a structured and focused opportunity for the team to feed into the proposal;
  • • Focus Group Discussions: Data will also be collected using focus groups discussion with programme beneficiaries and other project stakeholders, particularly the Embassy of Ireland, using a pre-designed focus group discussion guide;
  • • Lessons learned/best practice workshop: Facilitate a workshop to analyse and compile lessons learning and best practice with IRLI staff.




The evaluation will start in late May 2021 and will take no longer than 21 working days. Deliverables




1. Inception Report


An inception report will outline the key scope of the work and intended work plan of the analysis, and project proposal questions.

The inception report should detail the consultant’s understanding of the programme and needs of the proposal. The inception report should include a proposed schedule of tasks, activities and deliverables.

3 days


2. Data Collection


Undertake desk review, carry out key informant interviews, conduct staff retreat and review relevant documents.

10 days


3. Data analysis and draft project proposal


Presentation of initial report to the IRLI team for review and feedback

4 days


4. Final project proposal


The final proposal should be submitted after incorporating the comments received from the IRLI and Embassy of Ireland teams.

4 days

Recruitment: Legal Consultant

May 01, 2021 | posted by | 5sc

IRLI Legal Consultant (Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions)

Terms of Reference

1. Overview

Irish Rule of Law International (IRLI) is a project-orientated, non-profit rule of law initiative established by the Law Society of Ireland and the Bar of Ireland in 2007, and were joined by the Law Society of Northern Ireland and the Bar of Northern Ireland in 2015. The organisation has collaborated with academics, judges, legal practitioners, policymakers and civil society around the world to advance collective knowledge of the relationship between rule of law, democracy, sustained economic development and human rights. We believe that members of the legal profession have a significant role to play in enhancing the rule of law and shaping the progress of developing societies.

Programme Title IRLI Malawi ‘Access to Justice’ Programme

IRLI Position Title IRLI Legal Consultant within the Office of the DPP

Location, Country Lilongwe, Malawi

Start Date Immediately

Length of Contract Until 31 August 2021

Days per week 5

2. Programme Description

Since August 2011, IRLI has been working in Malawi to address capacity challenges within the criminal justice sector, with the overall aim of promoting the rule of law and improving access to justice for unrepresented and particularly vulnerable persons. One of the main barriers to access to justice in Malawi is that key institutions operating within the criminal justice sector lack the knowledge, capacity and resources to fulfil their roles and responsibilities in relation to accused persons. To address this, IRLI has developed a placement programme whereby Programme Lawyers (PLs) are strategically placed inside the key institutions in the Malawian criminal justice system: the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); the Malawi Police Services (MPS) and the Judiciary. The position of DPP Legal Consultant will assist IRLI in meeting its targets for our current access to justice programme which ends on 31 August 2021.

IRLI’s work in Malawi targets the relationship between access to justice mechanisms for vulnerable people and a quality legal/judicial response based on the rule of law. Working to improve access to justice, using a human rights-based approach, is essential for bringing about positive social change for those persons who are amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised in society.

3. Programme Objectives

The overall aim of the programme is to see improved access to justice for unrepresented vulnerable persons in the criminal justice system in the Central Region of Malawi.

There are two specific objectives:

  • • to increase the institutional capacity to provide sufficient services to people in conflict with the law according to the principle of due process and human rights
  • • to ensure the enjoyment of due process rights including legal representation and restorative justice to persons held in police custody and detainees in the Central Region of Malawi

4. Organisational Context

The Consultant will be seconded to the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Lilongwe. The Consultant will work within the Ministry of Justice in the office of the DPP, alongside Malawi State advocates. The Consultant will be expected to work independently for much of the time, but also to attend team meetings and other project related meetings and coordinate and collaborate with his or her IRLI colleagues on specific projects.

Under the direct supervision of the Programme Manager in Malawi, the Consultant in the DPP will undertake activities to strengthen the capacity of the DPP paralegals; providing training to Police Prosecutors, finalise and providing trainings on vulnerable victims guidelines; review homicide files; provide legal opinions; liaise with the Judiciary, LAB and MPS PLs to provide assistance with outstanding homicide or sexual offence matters.

This will involve work with the following partners: The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs (MoJCA) - including the Legal Aid Department and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions - and the Judiciary, as well as the Malawi Police Service, the Malawi Prison Services, the Department of Social Welfare, PASI (Paralegal Advisory Service Institute), Irish Aid, European Union and other local/international stakeholders and partners as the need arises.

5. Roles and Responsibilities

Under the supervision of the Programme Manager, the Consultant will undertake the following tasks:

  • • Facilitate advocacy training for Police Prosecutors, who are largely in charge of prosecutions in Malawi and often have no legal training.
  • • Facilitate development of an audio programme for police officers to receive training on bail.
  • • Work to finalise guidelines for working with vulnerable victims developed by previous DPP PL, and conduct a training on the guidelines
  • • Undertake a review of historical homicide files to identify those cases that should be discontinued and those that should be prosecuted. This may include tracing witnesses and accused persons with the assistance of DPP paralegals and the MPS.
  • • Provide support to the DPP as requested for the training needs of support staff, including training of State Advocates.
  • • Maintain homicide statistics for the Central Region.
  • • Review current homicide and sexual offences cases and write legal opinions to advise on the merits of the case and the appropriate next steps, as requested.
  • • Support cooperation between the DPP Office and other criminal justice system actors (including the MPS, judiciary and LAB), through coordination of a stakeholder meeting biannually.
  • • Liaise with the DPP to release wrongfully detained persons who have had their cases committed to the High Court.
  • • Assist the IRLI team in general in the organisation and implementation of general project activities where the need arises.
  • • Perform other duties as necessary


6. Qualifications, skills and personal characteristics

  • • Bachelors’ degree in law, human rights, development or similar field
  • • Experience working in criminal law
  • • Experience working on rule of law initiatives in a development/human rights context
  • • Excellent interpersonal skills, including the ability to establish good professional relationships with key individuals.
  • • Strong sense of initiative and good problem-solving skills.
  • • Fluency in written and spoken English is essential. Fluency in Chichewa is an asset.
  • • Excellent communication skills, written and oral.
  • • Experience preparing, working with and managing budgets.
  • • Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) experience, including experience in proposal/report writing.
  • • Computer skills (i.e. Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.).
  • • Exceptional time management and organisational skills.
  • • Strong ability to motivate others.
  • • Ability to work independently, with minimal supervision, but also as part of a team.
  • • Commitment to IRLI’s values and human rights.
  • • Full driving license (essential)
  • • Respect for diversity is essential

7. Submission of Applications

Applicants should submit a Curriculum Vitae and Cover letter by 5pm (Central Africa Time) on Monday 10th May to the Country Programme Manager – [email protected]

Ireland’s First Case Prosecuting and Convicting Female Genital Mutilation

April 30, 2021 | posted by | 5sc

By Aoife Lawlor

*Content warning for violence against women, child cruelty, and genital mutilation*

IRLI's Tanzania programme is aimed at providing access to justice to victims of child sexual abuse - building on Ireland's experience of investigating and prosecuting such matters. While Ireland has general expertise in CSA matters, this is not the case for FGM, a practice which is more common in Tanzania. IRLI is monitoring the most recent developments in this Irish case. 

The practice of FGM has been illegal in Ireland since 2012, with the introduction of the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act. Under this Act, the penalty for performing or aiding the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is a maximum fine of €10,000 or maximum imprisonment for 14 years, or both.[1] This Act also made it an offence for people to arrange for women or children to travel to countries outside of Ireland to undergo FGM.[2]

The first people to be convicted of FGM in the Republic of Ireland were convicted in January 2020.[3] The two defendants in this case were a married couple, who were accused of practicing FGM on their one year old daughter in 2016.[4] These accusations were raised after the victim’s father brought her to the hospital with persistent bleeding.[5] He then claimed that the victim had cut herself after falling backwards onto a toy.[6] However, medical professionals did not find this story credible as the injury did not appear to be accidental, nor did it appear to be consistent with falling backwards onto a toy.[7] According to Dr. Sinead Harty, the head and glans of the victim’s clitoris had been completely removed,[8] which is consistent with Type 1 FGM.[9] Dr. Deborah Hodes, a consultant community paediatrician, who helped to establish the first FGM clinic for young women in the United Kingdom, presented a report to the court outlining the long-term effects of this particular form of FGM upon the victim.[10]

During the trial, both parents denied one count of practicing FGM on their child, and one count of child cruelty.[11]They were found guilty of both counts on the eighth day of the trial.[12]The victim’s father was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for FGM, and three years for child cruelty; and the victim’s mother was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for FGM, and two years and nine months for child cruelty.[13] When making her decision regarding the sentences, Judge Sheahan considered similar cases in other jurisdictions, such as the jurisdictions of the United Kingdom (UK).[14] In the UK, the practice of FGM has been illegal since the introduction of the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act in 1985. This Act was subsequently repealed, and the Female Genital Mutilation Act was established in its place in 2003. In 2005, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act broadened the scope of the law in regards to FGM, and made it an offence for citizens and residents of the UK to travel to countries outside of the UK and perform FGM, or arrange for women and children to undergo FGM in countries outside of the UK, regardless of the legality of FGM within these countries.[15]

When considering the sentencing of the defendants in the Irish case, Judge Sheahan examined the case of the first person to be convicted of FGM in the UK (England and Wales) in 2019.[16] The two defendants in this case were a couple, who were accused of practicing FGM on the three year old victim.[17] Similar to the Irish case, these accusations were raised after the mother of the victim had brought her daughter to a hospital with her partner.[18] While the couple attempted to claim that the victim had cut herself on the edge of a kitchen cupboard, it was concluded by medical professionals that her injuries were not consistent with such an incident.[19] Though her partner was acquitted of the charges of practicing or aiding FGM on the victim, the victim’s mother was found to be guilty.[20] She was subsequently convicted and jailed for eleven years, with a further sentence of two years for possession of indecent images and child pornography.[21] When considering the sentences for the defendants in the Irish case, Judge Sheahan also examined the differences between the types of FGM which were performed on the victims; in the Irish case, the victim suffered Type 1 FGM, whereas in the English and Welsh case the victim suffered Type 2 FGM, which consists of partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the inner folds of the vulva.[22] Judge Sheahan also took the personal circumstances of the defendants into consideration, as well the fact that both of the defendants displayed a lack of remorse or understanding of their actions by claiming that they were not guilty on all counts.[23]

This is a landmark case, as it is the first conviction of FGM in the Republic of Ireland. Thus, this case will set a precedent regarding the prosecution and conviction of FGM within Ireland. Furthermore, the case has raised awareness of FGM in Ireland, and the existing legislation regarding this form of gender-based violence. Hopefully, this awareness and precedent will serve to prevent future cases of FGM, as in 2017, the charity AkiDwA, estimated that approximately 5,790 people had undergone FGM in Ireland.[24]

The two defendants in the Irish case have recently requested that their now five year old daughter be re-examined to establish whether a FGM procedure was performed on the victim.[25] The defence for the couple have applied to the Court of Appeal for a ‘directions hearing’ in which they will request that the court consider an order for the re-examination to proceed.[26] At a brief hearing regarding this application, Justice Birmingham stated that there were disagreements among medical professionals regarding whether the victim was forced to undergo FGM or not.[27] The barristers representing the appellants in this case argue that the defence’s reliance on photographs and videos of FGM in the first case cast doubts on whether the victim underwent FGM.[28]


[1] Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012

[2] Ibid

[3] ‘Parents jailed over female genital mutilation of daughter’ The Irish Times (Dublin, 27 January 2020) <> accessed 20 April 2021; Eoin Reynolds, ‘Parents jailed for subjecting child to female genital mutilation ‘want girl re-examined’ to assess if procedure happened’ The Independent (Dublin, 23 March 2021) <> accessed 20 April 2021

[4] Ibid; ibid

[5] Ibid; ibid

[6] Ibid; ibid

[7] Ibid; ibid

[8] ‘Parents jailed over female genital mutilation of daughter’ The Irish Times (Dublin, 27 January 2020) <> accessed 20 April 2021

[9] Órla Ryan, ‘Ireland’s first FGM conviction: Father sentenced to 5.5 years, mother sentenced to 4 years and 9 months’ The Journal (Dublin, 27 January 2020) <> accessed 20 April 2021

[10] ‘Parents jailed over female genital mutilation of daughter’ The Irish Times (Dublin, 27 January 2020) <> accessed 20 April 2021

[11] ‘Parents jailed over female genital mutilation of daughter’ The Irish Times (Dublin, 27 January 2020) <> accessed 20 April 2021; Eoin Reynolds, ‘Parents jailed for subjecting child to female genital mutilation ‘want girl re-examined’ to assess if procedure happened’ The Independent (Dublin, 23 March 2021) <> accessed 20 April 2021

[12] Ibid; Ibid

[13] Órla Ryan, ‘Ireland’s first FGM conviction: Father sentenced to 5.5 years, mother sentenced to 4 years and 9 months’ The Journal (Dublin, 27 January 2020) <> accessed 20 April 2021

[14] Ibid

[15] Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005

[16] ‘FGM: Mother guilty of genital mutilation of daughter’ BBC News (London, 1 February 2019) <> accessed 20 April 2020; Sarah Marsh, ‘Mother jailed for 11 years in first British FGM conviction’ The Guardian (8 March 2019) <> accessed 20 April 2020

[17] Sarah Marsh, ‘Mother jailed for 11 years in first British FGM conviction’ The Guardian (8 March 2019) <> accessed 20 April 2020

[18] Ibid

[19] Ibid

[20] ‘FGM: Mother guilty of genital mutilation of daughter’ BBC News (London, 1 February 2019) <> accessed 20 April 2020

[21] Sarah Marsh, ‘Mother jailed for 11 years in first British FGM conviction’ The Guardian (8 March 2019) <> accessed 20 April 2020

[22] Órla Ryan, ‘Ireland’s first FGM conviction: Father sentenced to 5.5 years, mother sentenced to 4 years and 9 months’ The Journal (Dublin, 27 January 2020) <> accessed 20 April 2021

[23] Órla Ryan, ‘Ireland’s first FGM conviction: Father sentenced to 5.5 years, mother sentenced to 4 years and 9 months’ The Journal (Dublin, 27 January 2020) <> accessed 20 April 2021

[24] AkiDwA, ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ (AkiDwA) <> accessed 20 April 2021

[25] Eoin Reynolds, ‘Parents jailed for subjecting child to female genital mutilation ‘want girl re-examined’ to assess if procedure happened’ The Independent (Dublin, 23 March 2021) <> accessed 20 April 2021

[26] Ibid

[27] Ibid

[28] Ibid

Magistrates' Trainings - Cecilia Lettiena Onsewa

April 25, 2021 | posted by | 5sc

About 95% of criminal cases in Malawi are dealt with in the Magistrates’ Courts, there are few crimes that originate in the High Court, such as murder and manslaughter. Otherwise, the High Court primarily operates as an appellate court. As part of our programme in Malawi, we organise trainings for magistrates, which include sentencing guidelines.

In Malawi, a person has a constitutional right to legal representation, however due to very constrained resources, in practice, accused persons in the magistrates’ courts, where the majority of cases are heard, rarely have access to representation. This means that an accused person’s case is prejudiced hugely, right from the beginning of their case.

There are two levels of magistrates in Malawi: lay magistrates and professional magistrates. The latter have a university degree and normally have practiced law, while the latter receive year long training before joining the Magistracy. Professional magistrates have wider criminal jurisdiction.

For magistrates, we endeavour to make our trainings practical, appropriate and interactive. We also hope that they are indicative of our commitment to justice in the country and help address the complex issues arising from a foreign legal system established during colonialism.

We’ll be profiling over the coming months some of the magistrates that have taken part in our trainings. First up - Cecilia Lettiena Onsewa.

IRLI: What is your name and what is your role?

CO: I am Cecilia Lettiena Onsewa. I am a Senior Resident Magistrate.

Why did you decide to become involved in legal work?

I decided to become involved in legal work so that I could provide legal advice to people and settle their disputes by presiding over cases.

What is your opinion on the justice system in Malawi?

My opinion on the justice system in Malawi is that it is very reliable and independent. There is no interference from the other arms of the government, be it the Executive or the Legislature. The High Court of Malawi does not interfere with the decisions of the subordinate courts unless on appeal or review. Judicial independence is not only among the arms of government, but also exists within the judicial arm of government. That is why it is reliable and has the trust of Malawians.

What is the biggest challenge accused people face within the Malawian justice system?

Legal representation is the biggest challenge. Most accused persons are not represented, which makes it very difficult for them to appreciate the proceedings in court.

What would you like to change about the legal system in Malawi?

Our Malawi Judicial System has weaknesses. The subordinate courts do not have enough enforcement mechanisms. This makes it difficult to enforce orders, bearing in mind that arrest is no longer a viable means. I would suggest that the enforcement methods available at the High court should also be made available to the subordinate courts. The High court procedure should be made user friendly to the illiterate and unrepresented citizens of Malawi.

How is Malawi playing a leading role worldwide in its application of the law in the country?

Malawi is playing a leading role worldwide in its application of the law by deciding cases based on the law and the available evidence. There is no fear or favour, ill-will or affection. There is no interference from the other arms of the government. Judges do not subscribe to corrupt practices. A very good example would be the election case that was decided by the Constitutional court. Elections were declared null and void on grounds of irregularities. This has only happened in very few countries around the world, and we are only the second African nation to do so. This landmark case is being referred to by other countries worldwide.

What motivates you to do the work that you are doing?

As a Magistrate, I am motivated when the decisions I make are upheld by the High Court and my orders and judgments are effectively executed.

I am motivated when I see a smile on the faces of the parties who appear before me, and are assisted by getting justice from my decisions. 

Do you see a bright future for Malawi and its people?

I see a bright future for Malawi and it's people if the things highlighted above can improve for the better in all areas, including the justice system and other areas that have not been highlighted. It, however, requires individual, as well as concerted effort and political will for this to be achieved. Together we can.

What has your involvement been with the IRLI?

I have had workshops in the form of refresher courses, reminding us of any amendments in the laws and any new laws.

Have you been involved in training with the IRLI? How has this benefited you?

I have had a number of trainings with IRLI. These trainings have benefited me a lot, as some trainings were eye openers to some of the laws I was not aware of. We also conducted camp courts at the prison where a lot of accused persons benefited from those camp courts.






The Winds of Change for the Rule of Law

April 23, 2021 | posted by | 5sc

We’re holding an online event in May, with Conor Linehan of William Fry, Catherine Donnelly SC of the Bar Council of Ireland & Raphael J. Heffron of Dundee University. Registration, here.

Fergal Gaynor

April 12, 2021 | posted by | 5sc

In the latest in our series profiling Irish and Northern Irish Lawyers who have worked abroad, we spoke with Fergal Gaynor, who has worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), represented victims before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and investigated crimes in Syria and Myanmar. He is currently working as the Reserve Chief Prosecutor at the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts in Cambodia, commonly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, and has recently been appointed as a Judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers. Fergal is Irish, born in Malawi.

IRLI: What is your background/training?

FG: I graduated in law from Trinity College, Dublin and in international relations from Cambridge University. I trained as a solicitor at Freshfields in London, and, a decade later, re-qualified as a barrister in Dublin.

Why did you become interested in this work?

I was initially interested in working in development. I gravitated towards a career in international criminal justice after writing a thesis at Cambridge on the statutes of the UN tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

What do you hope to achieve from the work you are doing?

The aim of international criminal justice is to provide a measure of justice to the victims of the worst crimes known to humanity, and to hold accountable those most responsible through fair trials. I strongly believe in bringing justice to those who have suffered as a result of crimes committed in times of armed conflict, and ensuring proper representation of both the accused and the victims, regardless of their race, nationality or religion.

Can you tell us some of your professional experiences that have left quite a mark on you personally?

Meeting both victims and perpetrators of atrocities is a powerful experience. Interaction with victims can affect you in different ways. In some instances, it is an affirming experience. As a prosecutor at the Yugoslavia tribunal, I met quite a few victims from Bosnia after they had testified in the courtroom. Many were overwhelmed with relief and gratitude. Having the opportunity to testify in a dignified environment, before judges and lawyers, who listened carefully to everything they said, meant a great deal.

I have also met victims who have felt betrayed and let down by international justice. In particular, my staff and I held meetings in many locations in Kenya with hundreds of victims of serious crimes, after the collapse of the ICC cases concerning those crimes. Many of the victims expressed anger at what they perceived to be the failure of the ICC to deliver justice, and to stand up effectively to obstruction of justice by those determined to persuade the ICC to walk away.

How important is the rule of law, in your opinion?

I passionately believe in upholding the rule of law. This includes ensuring full respect by States for their international treaty obligations, and full protection of fundamental rights of accused and victims. Robust respect for the rule of law benefits all of us. In an increasingly interconnected world, we are more reliant than ever on a rules-based international order.

I passionately believe that the rule of law helps to reinforce stability and security in post-conflict environments. Collectively, we spends relatively little on international justice, certainly in comparison with what we spend on keeping and equipping armies, navies and air forces. Yet the security benefits which flow from robust international justice processes are large. We need to reassess why we spend so much on military solutions, and so relatively little on international justice, as a means of ensuring a safer world. We need to be more assertive in promoting the rule of law as a means of reinforcing national and regional security.

Why did you decide to work abroad?

I was born in Malawi, and raised there and in eSwatini, and I have lived most of my life outside Ireland. I never made a conscious decision to work abroad; it was more a case of following the opportunities that happened to arise.

You’ve worked at the the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), can you tell us about your experiences there and what sort of work you were involved in?

I was a prosecutor at the ICTY for nine years, working mainly on the Bosnian Serb leadership cases. I had many different roles; researching and drafting legal submissions; interviewing witnesses; reviewing huge quantities of documentary evidence; examining and cross-examining witnesses in the courtroom; getting to grips with the technical evidence of expert witnesses; liaising with defence counsel. Building a major military or political leadership case requires dozens of staff working very long hours. It was an enormous privilege to work with staff from across the world in building strong evidentiary foundations which resulted in successful prosecutions.

And your work with the International Criminal Court (ICC) – what was it you did?

For over three years I represented the victims in the case against Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Kenya. The judges created a model of victim participation which required me to live in Kenya, returning to The Hague for pre-trial hearings. I lived in Kenya for most of 2013 and 2014, at a time when feelings among Kenyans concerning the ICC cases ran very high, and there were considerable security issues surrounding our work in Kenya.

More recently, I assisted victims in asserting their Rome Statute rights in litigation concerning whether the Prosecutor could or should begin an investigation into crimes committed in Afghanistan and Palestine, which are ICC States Parties.

You were also involved in the investigation that led to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. What did your role look like and how significant, in your opinion, is the outcome?

I worked as part of a UN investigative team interviewing witnesses and analysing data relating to the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. This led to the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The outcome of the Tribunal’s work has been mixed. It was a step in the right direction as far as respect for the rule of law and ending the era of impunity are concerned, but many have expressed disappointment at what they perceived as the Tribunal’s modest achievements.

Can you tell us about your experiences investigating crimes in Myanmar and Syria?

I supervised investigative teams at an NGO that seeks to fill the gap caused by the failure of the UN Security Council to refer serious crimes in Syria and Myanmar to the ICC. The investigations I oversaw focus on the collection of what is informally called “linkage evidence” (the evidence that proves the participation of the accused in the crimes charged) and preparing criminal briefs against those most responsible for, mainly, crimes against detainees held by the Syrian government. The evidence consisted of hundreds of thousands of pages of communications within and among Syrian government intelligence and military units, at every level, and a large array of other forms of evidence, including photographs of thousands of corpses of those who died in detention, taken by Syrian military police. We also interviewed large numbers of witnesses, both victims and defectors from the Syrian government forces. I was also involved in the preliminary stages of an investigation into crimes committed by the defence forces of Myanmar.

What does your work with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal involve? Why did you decide to become involved in this work?

I worked as a prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in 2015 and 2016. I am now the Reserve International Co-Prosecutor at the Tribunal. I had long been interested in the Khmer Rouge period, and in understanding how a government could methodically force its people down a path of dismantlement of its society, disintegration of its institutions, and deliberate destruction of a large proportion of its population.

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is one of the so-called “hybrid” or “mixed” tribunals: staff from the post-conflict country work alongside international staff, implementing a blend of national and international law. I was interested in seeing how this model works on the ground, as I passionately believe in involving nationals of the post-conflict country as much as possible in the justice process.

You’ve recently been appointed as a Judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, can you tell us what this means? What is the KSC? And what is its relevance?

I was appointed a Judge of the KSC in 2020. The KSC is a court in The Hague which is within the Kosovo legal system. It was established pursuant to an international agreement ratified by the Kosovo Assembly. The KSC has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under Kosovo law, which were commenced or committed in Kosovo between 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2000 by or against citizens of Kosovo or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

What drives you to do what you do?

International criminal justice is endlessly fascinating. The legal and procedural questions are intellectually stimulating, and the work can have a genuinely beneficial impact in helping societies that have been torn apart by conflict.

What sort of an impact would you like to make?

It’s not about making an impact as an individual. I am more interested in working with others to uphold the rights of both victims and accused persons in order to bring a credible justice process to societies who desperately deserve justice.

Your advice to young people entering the legal profession?

First, do not allow others to place limits on your ambition. Second, follow your passion. You are more likely to excel in a field of law for which you have a genuine passion. Third, never stop learning. Wherever you are in your career, make the most of the learning opportunities presented to you. In particular, take a strong interest in learning and applying the ethical principles of legal practice.




The Disproportionate Impact of the Covid-19 Regulations on Women

April 04, 2021 | posted by | 5sc

By Jessica O'Neill

Malawi has in many ways handled the Covid-19 pandemic much better than its European or American counterparts. While the measures introduced to the curb the spread of the virus are laudable in aim, their strict enforcement through the use of the criminal justice system has disproportionately impacted the most marginalised of society, exacerbating existing inequalities and placing further burden on women – who due to patriarchal structures that are by no means unique to Malawi – are expected to serve as managers of their households. This article seeks to illustrate the unintended impact of Covid-19 measures on women generally, in particular the use of criminal sanctions to enforce them. The examples provided, while specific to the Malawi context, are illustrative of global trends.

Earlier in the year, the Malawian President, Lazarus Chakwera declared a state of national disaster in the country as a result of the Covid-19 virus. Malawi now has a total of 33,415 reported cases, 29,417 of which have recovered. The death toll stands at 1,112, which includes the death of two government ministers and other government officials as well.

Like most other countries, Malawi has introduced regulations to restrict the movement of its people in attempting to combat the outbreak of Covid-19. The effects of these regulations have disproportionately affected the most disadvantaged in society, including the female population. In light of the conventional role played by women in generating income and in carrying out general household tasks, the consequences for women and young girls have been especially challenging. This has been evidenced by recent court rulings and in actions taken by the police to enforce these new measures also.

On 28 January 2021, the Female Sex Workers Association (FSWA) led a protest in opposition to the regulations. A large group of sex workers gathered in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, in response against the ‘targeted police brutality’ that has resulted from the introduction of the Covid-19 restrictions. Some examples of the restrictions include a 9pm curfew - after which people are prohibited from “socially wandering”, a limitation of the trading hours for bars and food outlets to between 7am and 8pm and the obligation to wear a mask in public spaces. The sex workers have argued that the police have taken advantage of their powers of enforcement and directly targeted them when administering the restrictions.

In a recent interview with the Guardian, Zinenani Majawa, the national coordinator of the FSWA, outlined how the police were entering the rooms of sex workers and beating them for breaching the restrictions, and made the comparison there has been no mention of the police carrying out this kind of treatment in the homes of married couples. It would appear an easy way for police to feel they are enforcing the restrictions by targeting vulnerable sex workers. Although the need to control the spread of the virus is of significant concern, the applicable measures must be respected and the protection of human rights should still be paramount.

The restrictions are being implemented to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the people, but when the police utilise these measures to harm individuals they completely undermine their purpose. The Covid-19 preventative measures do not exist in isolation and should be applied alongside considerations for basic human rights and needs. On 25 January 2021 President Chakwera condemned the use of police brutality saying, “Citizens found to be in violation of public safety laws must be subjected to due process, not police brutality or beatings. Malawi is not a police state, for what we have in this country is a police service not a police force”

The sex workers protest saw women take to the streets, urging the Government to extend the closing times of bars, as many of these women have been unable to earn a livelihood and suffered from the lack of available income. These women say that their sex work is work just like any other employment and consequently they have been discriminated against by the measures as they prevent them from carrying out their job day to day. The growing fear of hunger is prevalent and the association emphasised the need to intake food before receiving HIV/AIDS medication.

As mentioned above, the disproportionate impact of the enforcement of Covid-19 regulations has been observed in the courtroom and the judgements issued. On 2 February 2021, four women were each ordered to pay 30 thousand Kwacha by the magistrate court in Dedza, or, as an alternative, to spend three months in jail in default as punishment for selling local beer after 8pm at Bembeke market. Ignorance of Covid-19 preventative laws was considered as a mitigating factor however, and the women ultimately paid the instructed fines. It was outlined, concisely, by magistrate Clemence Chamwenda, that the sentence served to caution other individuals who may contemplate offending the law. The court wanted the ruling to act as a deterrent, but the negative financial effect on these women greatly outweighed the positive of any deterrent effect.

Finally the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has stepped in to assist individuals who have been suffering from the measures imposed on cross border trade. As part of a multi-agency project the UNCTAD has equipped women traders in border areas of Malawi with the entrepreneurial skills and information they need to get through the pandemic. Many of their businesses have been hit by the increased costs in sourcing materials and by the inability to cross borders to import goods. Business has been further frustrated by the fear in customers that products imported from other countries may be infected with the virus. The income loss that has resulted has been tough for women who own businesses to support their family needs.

The workshops were held by the UNCTAD in February and offered information on rules and customs of trade procedures to equip these traders with the knowledge they need to survive the crisis. A number of female traders have pursued informal crossing paths that can expose them to violence, fines and confiscation of their produce if they are detected by border authorities. The awareness of rights and obligations will assist these female traders and protect them from border issues. Having the opportunity for development and strengthening their skills will enable the women in Malawi to overcome the challenges faced by their businesses and support the wellbeing of their families.

The restrictions introduced in many countries, in an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19, have had a disproportionally negative effect on the lives of women, and Malawi is no different. With the police force selectively enforcing the measures and targeting this vulnerable group of society, there are women struggling to bring home any income and suffering from brutality. Overcoming the virus is the ultimate goal for all countries, but in the interim, the importance of protection for citizens, ensuring economic recovery and the prevention of poverty should not be forgotten.