Nkhotakota woman detained without trial, wrongly charged

Nkhotakota, Child Rights Advocacy Paralegal Aid Centre (CRAPAC) says it is investigating a case of Rachel Phiri, a female suspect who has been on remand at Nkhotakota prison and has never appeared before court since her detention on July 31, 2015.

This transpired Friday during this year’s commemoration of International Human Rights Day organised by CRAPAC and Irish Rule of Law International to remind detainees at Nkhotakota Prison of their rights.

Through different activities like songs, poems, plays and debates, prisoners explained different offences they committed and how they were copying with prison life.

One of the interesting stories was that of a young lady who narrated that she was arrested by Nkhunga Police in Dwangwa more than two years ago but she has never appeared in court for trial.

She told the group of human rights activists, journalists, prisoners and warders that attended the commemoration that she aborted her five months old pregnancy because she was not ready to take care of the expected baby only to be arrested.

There are several people out there who terminate pregnancies on different reasons but they are not sent to prison. The few lucky ones who are detained are released on bail just within a few days. Am I not heard because I am poor? she wondered through a question and answer session.

Phiri narrated that she was surprised to hear that her charge sheet indicates that she killed her newly born baby hence suspected of murder, when did abortion become murder? she queried.

CRAPAC Executive Director, Alfred Munika said he was convinced with the gatherings that happen every year for the interaction saying the interface has freed and changed people’s mindset on how a prisoner is supposed to be treated.

Two years ago we managed to follow up an issue of a prison warder who was accused of being in a love affair with a prisoner’s wife. The warder was disciplined and transferred to another work station so that the prisoner is also at peace.

We promise to look into Phiri’s case so that she goes to court and she is rightfully charged. In cases where the court needs more time, we will help to process her bail, said Munika.

Program Lawyer at Irish Rule of Law International, Macdara O’Drisceoil said it is unfortunate that more citizens especially those who commit offences do not know their rights let alone understand the constitution.

The constitution of Malawi which happens to be the supreme law clearly states that every offender is entitled to bail and a murder suspect should appear before court within 90 days of their arrest, he said.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA