Chilungamo (Justice and Accountability) Programme

Chilungamo (Justice and Accountability) Programme

Camp Courts - reducing overcrowding in Malawi Prisons

In July 2018 alone, 25 cases were heard through Camp Courts. In the past 12 months, the Judiciary in collaboration with other actors in the justice system has managed to bring more than 350 cases into trial, something which we would not have managed without this set-up and support from the EU. Camp Courts are directly contributing to the decongestion of prisons and police cells in Malawi.

Agnes Patemba--Registrar of the High Court & Supreme Court of Appeal

CONTEXT

Overcrowding is one of the main challenges facing prison management in Malawi, making it a major contributing factor to poor living conditions. Prison overcrowding undermines the prison system's ability to provide basic needs to incarcerated people. The consequences of prison overcrowding can be overwhelming and life threatening to both the prisoners and employees. A number of strategies to reduce prison overcrowding in Malawi have been put in place. One of such strategies is Camp Courts, which is being implemented by the Judiciary with support from the Chilungamo Programme of the EU.

OBJECTIVES

  • To validate remand warrants by cross checking the remand warrants with numbers of people in custody, in particular, regarding suspects on temporary remand.
  • Grant trial to offenders who have overstayed on remand especially those with petty offences
  • Through camp courts, a good number of offenders, most of whom overstay in prison/police cells without trial, manage to secure bail; some can have their cases discharged, and some their cases withdrawn. This contributes to the decongestion of prisons and police cells.

RESULTS

  • Decongestion of prisons and police cells
  • Inmates-detained for minor offences- are either granted bail or discharged instantly or given non-custodial sentences
  • Increased access to justice for all, especially women and the poor

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • 20 sessions of Camp Courts conducted in 12 months
  • 350 cases heard
  • 102 bail bonds granted, 12 cases withdrawn and 22 acquitted

TESTIMONY

This set-up is very helpful

My name is Andrew and I have been on remand at Kasungu Prison for some time now, because the police are yet to find witnesses for my case. I am glad that today, my case is one of those that will be tried right here at Kasungu Prison through the Camp Court. I would be very happy to be considered for bail through this process. I also like the fact that we have access to lawyers who represent us during trial, something we would not afford on our own. If this initiative continues, it will provide an opportunity to thousands of prisoners whose cases have not been tried. There are a lot of suspects who have overstayed in detention because police are still searching for witnesses.

"At the start of this programme in August 2017, overcrowding in prisons was over 250 percent. I am happy to note that, in twelve months, the programme has facilitated the release of 1,235 inmates from prisons, compared to a target of 900, through camp courts and a review and analysis of court orders.— Marchel Gerrmann (EU Ambassador to Malawi)