Yvonne Nsena shares information on a new project we will be implementing this year.
As the condition of prisons in Malawi is getting worse day by day, Citizens for Justice (CFJ) this year as part of its advancement in some of its focus areas of governance work in relation to judicial independence, anti-corruption efforts in Malawi, promoting access to justice and lobbying for the enjoyment and realisation of social economic rights for Malawians has signed a new three-year project called ‘Access to Justice System’ in partnership with Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI) and Irish Rule of Law International (IRLI) with funding from the European Union.
CFJ discovered that a lot of vulnerable people who are in conflict with the law in Malawi do not access legal justice due to lack of pro-bono lawyers and legal aid as a result they are kept in prison for a long time without going to court or sometimes the cases keep on being adjourned and this causes overcrowding in prisons. This happens because of lack of knowledge of the law and limited continuous professional development among legal professionals, lack of availability and access to legal aid and representation services, lack of knowledge of child justice and understanding of restorative justice practices for young offenders, and lack of knowledge of due process rights and restorative justice at the community level. In order to respond to these challenges, the project will offer legal aid services including legal education clinics, prison camp courts, legal assistance and the opportunity to participate in comprehensive diversion programme to children in conflict with the law. It will also equip representatives from relevant institutions including, the police, lawyers and paralegals, magistrates, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, with the capacity, knowledge and tools to better understand and implement their roles and responsibilities towards people in conflict with the law. In addition, it will provide outreach activities to community members to increase their knowledge and understanding of due process rights and restorative justice.
Live radio programmes will be used for raising awareness with panels consisting of representatives from civil society, the Legal Aid Department and from the community who benefited from the project. We will also have legal community legal aid clinics where community members will be able to access legal advice. This will be consolidated by community sensitisation where the community will be educated on justice practices. Camp courts is a key activity and these are the mobile courts which will be held in prison to enable those in pre-trial detention to have their matters screened. We will also conduct trainings for the magistrates to equip them with adequate knowledge and capacity to implement their responsibilities towards people in conflict with the law.
If legal service providers like the magistrates, lawyers and paralegals, police and others will take part in helping to promote and protect the rights of people in conflict with the law, legal justice will be accessed by everyone. For this project to be successful, people will have to accept and own it. CFJ hopes the project will help more people access justice more quickly.