Chichiri Performing Arts Group

Last week the newest Malawi Bail Project activities started to take shape – over five days the dusty courtyard at the back of the Chreaa offices became full with song, stomping and stories. The group of 12 ex-prisoners who used to be in the Chichiri Performing Arts group met to develop a play about bail in Malawi. Each day would begin with songs and games we learnt while working together in prison, the same rituals but now outside with no prison uniforms or jangling keys Continue reading →

Chichiri Drama Group – Crowdfunder

This week in an outbuilding of Chichiri Prison, a very special meeting happened.  The Chichiri Drama group, a 25 strong team of actors, dancers and musician inmates gathered where they usually rehearse in the shadow of the walls surrounding the prison.  They sat and waited for thirty minutes or so, as one by one other men joined us – some wearing their best suits, others sunglasses and headphones, others arriving on bikes.  Each new person arriving was greeted with excitement and warmth, loud cheers, hand Continue reading →

Police Training 2016

Elton, one of our paralegals, blogs about our most recent police training session… Our training targeted Police officers with an aim of reminding them of the rights of suspects as stipulated in the Constitution (Section 42 (2) (e)), Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code and in the Bail Guideline Act 2000. Every accused or suspect has a right to be released with or without bail at Police or court. The training was attended by twenty six (26) Police officers from different departments of the Police who deal Continue reading →

Fair Trials International guest post: arbitrary arrests and detention in Malawi

On 20th of May this year, Malawi held its first tripartite elections. The leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Peter Mutharika, younger brother to the late President Bingu Mutharika, won the election by 34.6% of the vote. In anticipation of public unrest prior to and post elections, there has been an increase in the use of routine ‘sweeping’ exercises, carried out by the Malawi Police Service and Malawi Defence Force soldiers. ‘Sweeping’ exercises, deemed by the government to be an essential practice in the reduction Continue reading →

Fair Trials International guest post: pre-trial detention in Malawi

I was asked to write a guest post for Fair Trials International (http://www.fairtrials.org/) on pre-trial detention in Malawi.  I have copied the post below, however you can read the post and about Fair Trials International ‘s work by following this link http://www.fairtrials.org/press/guest-post-pre-trial-detention-in-malawi/ ———————————– Guest post: Pre-trial detention in Malawi Continuing our series of guest posts on pre-trial detention, Charlotte Mackenzie from the Malawi Bail Project takes a look at the situation in Malawi: The Constitution of Malawi contains explicit protections of liberty, including the right not to be detained without Continue reading →

Malawi’s criminal justice system is in need of urgent reform

Malawi’s criminal justice system is in need of urgent reform While the attention of the government and the donor community is on ‘cashgate’, Malawians continue to be detained for long periods, largely unseen and unaided Charlotte Mackenzie Guardian Professional, Wednesday 5 February 2014 11.47 GMT The majority of Malawi’s citizens are unable to afford a private lawyer, and there are few legal aid lawyers available. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian Malawi ranks among the top 10 recipients of UK aid and, while the economy has grown in recent Continue reading →

Malawi: Justice for the Rich, Prison for the Poor

Malawi: Justice for the Rich, Prison for the Poor Being in prison in Malawi can be a tale of two justice systems. One involves legal representation, bail hearings and careful treatment. The other doesn’t. Article | 27 November 2013 – 11:16am | By Charlotte Mackenzie Inmates at Chikhwawa prison during a visit from the Deputy British Commissioner of Malawi, organised by CHREAA. Credit: Charlotte Mackenzie In the last year or so, Malawi’s justice system has had more than its fair share of VIPs coming through Continue reading →

Thoughts of a Prisoner – Boxten Kudziwe

Boxten Kudziwe, one of hundreds of prisoners in Malawi currently imprisoned in pre-trial detention, has written the below article about his experiences of the criminal justice system in Malawi.  He talks about the idea of a fair trial, adequate legal representation and rehabilitation and how all of these fairly standard notions of justice are inaccessible for the majority of Malawians living below the poverty line. ——————————————————————————————- VOLUME (l). JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN MALAWI SINCE DEMOCRACY       FINDINGS AFTER CONDUCTING THE RESEARCH IN CHICHIRI PRISON 1.   FAIR Continue reading →

Rehabilitation and Re-offending

When I arrived in Malawi four months ago I wrote a blog about the incredible work my friend Effie Makepeace has been doing with prisoners in Malawi.  Determined to change the attitude of society towards prisoners  and ex-convicts, Effie worked with prisoners in Chichiri prison to put together a performance which portrayed the horrific reality thousands of prisoners endure every day.  Not only did the play make the audience aware of the conditions these people are forced to endure, but it highlighted the further difficulties Continue reading →

Magistrate’s Discussion Group

On 1 November 2012, 20 Magistrates from Blantyre and the surrounding areas attended a training/discussion group organised by CHREAA and myself.  The aim of the session was for us to gain a better understanding of the main reasons Magistrates are denying bail applications and for the Magistrate’s to gain a better understanding of the common difficulties experienced by those going through the legal process. We started the session by inviting Max, an ex-convict who now works with Nanzikambe Theatre Company to run drama workshops in Continue reading →

Lamulo ndi Umunthu

Students involved in the pilot phase of the mitigation projects have been fully trained in capital mitigation – to undertake interviews with homicide remandees at both Chichiri Prison and Zomba Central Prison in preparation for sentencing hearings, research sentencing precedents in Malawi and draft skeleton arguments on mitigation. In May 2012, the British FCO accepted the CCPS proposal for funding, to enable CCPS interns to continue their work with law students and legal aid lawyers for the next 12 months. Last week, myself and one Continue reading →

Disease Screening and Control Project

     On Friday I travelled with the paralegals from CHREAA, to Chikwawa prison in Southern Malawi, to commend the hard work of all those involved in the Disease Screening and Control Project. The British FCO funded project, aims to reduce the rate of occurrence of infectious diseases in four prisons in Malawi, through screening prisoners on admission and administering medical treatment. Over the past year, CHREAA and the prison service have reported a reduction of 20% in the likelihood of catching an infectious disease Continue reading →

The Need for Age Assessment

Last week I was given a list of ten names.   All of these names belonged to homocide remandees at Chichiri prison, whose cases had been heard in 2010, but due to judicial strikes, huge case backlogs and an under resourced legal aid department, were still awaiting judgement.   My first port of call was to the ever helpful Boxten, a remandee since 2006 who is always more than willing to offer his assistance.  I needed to confirm that the ten prisoners were still alive, Continue reading →

A Big Thank You to Matrix Chambers

We are very glad to announce that the Charities Aid Foundation has just approved a £3,000 donation from Matrix Chambers to The Malawi Bail Project.  This extremely generous donation will pay for CHREAA to run the Bail Education Pilot Project in Blantyre High Court and Magistrate Courts in Blantyre and the surrounding area for the next year.    The funding will also enable us to run training sessions with Magistrate’s in Blantyre, where we will discuss the issues surrounding bail which are experienced by those going through Continue reading →

Boxten Kudziwe

Boxten Kudziwe was arrested and charged with murder along with two other men in 2006.  One of his co-accused escaped and was not re-arrested, the other plead guilty and was sentenced to whole of life imprisonment in Zomba Maximum Security Prison in 2010.  Boxten, who has always maintained a not guilty plea, has spent the past six years in Chichiri prison without being tried.  On my list of the 255 homocide remandees in Chichiri prison, starting with those arrested in 2004, Boxten is number 10. Continue reading →

Prisoners Perform

On Saturday, we all made our way to Nanzikambe Arts Cafe to watch a performance by current prisoners from Chichiri and Zomba prison.  Effie Makepeace has worked with prisoners in Chichiri for the past three years, running drama workshops which help prisoners to express their emotions and kep active during the days, months and years they spend incarcerated in inhumane and degrading conditions.  Nanzikambe Arts Development Organization (http://nanzikambearts.org/index.html) was the perfect place to display the hard work of Effie and the prisoners.   Nanzikambe, meaning Chameleon in Continue reading →

And Crocodiles Are Hungry At Night

On 25 September 1987 Jack Mapanje, a Malawian University lecturer and poet was arrested without charge, under a direct order from Ngwazi Dr H. Kamuzu Banda.  He was detained in Mikuyu prison without trial for 3 years, 7 months,16 days and more than 12 hours.  The Africa Centre, in collaboration with Nanzikambe Arts and Bilimankhwe Arts, are running a production of “And Crocodiles Are Hungry At Night”, adapted from the memoirs of Dr Mapanje.  Nine actors travelled from Malawi to bring to life the injustice Continue reading →

Tadala’s Story

I have just heard from Peter Magombo, a lawyer at Blantyre Legal Aid Department who has been fundamental in getting the applications and submissions produced by CCPS interns filed and presented in Court, that a young girl wrongly accused of murdering her child has been acquitted.    I was first introduced to Tadala Major, when I was asked by one of the paralegals at CHREAA to interview her, as they suspected she had been the victim of a gross injustice.  Mac and I interviewed Tadala Continue reading →

Malawi’s new president – Joyce Banda

Five days after leaving Blantyre, reports started to surface in UK News over speculation that President Bingu had died.  On 5 April, BBC Africa reported that he had been flown to South Africa for medical treatment after suffering a heart attack, whilst MalawiDemocrat.com reported that President Bingu wa Mutharika had died.  I immediately contacted friends based in Blantyre and Lilongwe who confirmed the Malawi Democrat’s report; a friend of a friend had been working in Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe and claimed Bingu had already died before Continue reading →