Malawi

Colonial era police powers to effect indiscriminate mass arrests in Malawi declared unconstitutional

Police in Malawi, like those in other post-colonial African countries, have long enjoyed wide powers to round up, hold and threaten anyone with prosecution under the guise of crime prevention. Typically, these powers are exercised by way of mass arrests, locally known as ‘sweeping exercises’, targeting people the police regard as vagrants or who seem out of place. Though first enacted under colonial rule, these powers have remained on the statute books even after independence.

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In a newly-delivered decision, Judge Zione Ntaba has held that the law giving Malawian police power to conduct indiscriminate raids on the public – known locally as ‘sweeping exercises’ – is unconstitutional.

In strong judgment, judge refuses 'sensitive' recusal application

A major new decision from Malawi’s high court on the vexed question of judicial recusal has laid down the law on the subject. It included strong words against the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s legal strategy – bringing a recusal application based on no arguments at all, but only a suggestion that the matter surrounding the appeal application was ‘too sensitive’ even to give reasons.

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The author of this significant decision, high court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda, was dealing with an application brought by counsel for the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), for his recusal from a corruption-related case involving Malawi’s former police boss, George Kainja.

Activist for women’s rights called ‘violent’ because she used local word for vagina on protest placard

A women’s rights activist in Malawi, Beatrice Matweyo, found by the high court to have been wrongly arrested during an anti-gender-based violence protest, has now been slammed for having carried a placard with a slogan including the local word for vagina. Lilongwe’s high court assistant registrar said the use of this word amounted to violence against women, and thus awarded her merely a nominal amount for her claim for punitive damages.

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A new decision by the high court of Malawi should provoke outrage. Brian Sambo, assistant registrar of the high court in Lilongwe, has been assessing the damages that must be paid to prominent women’s rights activist, Beatrice Mateyo. She was arrested during a protest against gender-based violence (GBV) because police thought her placard ‘insulted the modesty of women’ as it included the local word for a vagina.

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