Malawi govt risk paying out huge compensation to prisoners

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    A civil rights body has warned government that it risks paying huge sums of money in compensation to prisoners whose rights have been infringed upon due to the ongoing strike by prison warders.

    Chreaa executive director Victor Mhango addressing prisoners: suspects are languishing in some of the country’s prisons without prospects of trial due to strike

    Victor Mhango, executive director of Centre for Rehabilitation, Education and Advice (CHREA) said the Prison Department has failed to release some prisoners who whose term of jail ended.

    “The prison is also failing to bring to court those whose cases are supposed to be heard before the court, this is an infringement on the
    rights of suspects and convicts,” said Mhango.

    Mhango’s sentiments come at a time when there are reports that over 370 inmates pardoned by President Peter Mutharika last week have failed to gain their freedom and remained in prison because of the ongoing strike by prison warders.

    Both prison and Home Affairs officials confirmed that the process to free the pardoned prisoners was halted because of the strike.

    “The people who would have completed the process (of freeing the pardoned prisoners) are on strike. There is nothing we can do now
    until the strike is resolved,” said an official from the ministry of Home Affairs.

    The prison warders are demanding that their grades be at par with their colleagues in police and Immigration department which are all
    under ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security.

    President Mutharika on Thursday pardoned 378 prisoners as part of this year’s 53rd Independence anniversary celebrations which were commemorated on July 6 but were overshadowed by the Bingu National
    Stadium disaster which killed eight people and injured over 60 more, most of them children due to a stampede.

    Secretary for Home Affairs and Internal Security Sam Madula was reportedly in a crucial meeting at the Office of the President and Cabinet offices in Lilongwe yesterday in a bid to find a lasting solution to the strike that has paralysed justice delivery for suspects and prisoners.

    On Saturday, minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia’s effort to engage the striking prison warders at Zomba
    Maximum Prison in dialogue could not yield results as they warders walked out of her.

    Sources privy to the talks said Chiumia was not even allowed to get into the prison but was able to talk to them through a mesh wire as
    the representatives of the warders were inside the fence and she was outside.

    “What the warders want is that the government should put it in writing as to when it will implement the harmonization of ranks in prison, police and Immigration,” said our source.

    Chiumia however said in a separate interview her ministry alone could not make such an under taking as the issue involved other stakeholders in government which include Treasury and Office of the President and
    Cabinet.

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