Irish Lawyers Meet President Higgins in Malawi

Irish Lawyers Meet President Higgins in Malawi

November proved to be an exciting month for Irish Rule of Law International as the team in Malawi had the opportunity to meet with President Michael D Higgins on Tuesday 11th November during his visit to the country as part of a three-country trip including Ethiopia and South Africa. Speaking on the 28th October before he traveled, President Higgins said “This visit will recognise the immense contribution that Irish Aid, Irish aid agencies and workers and missionaries have made in Africa and will include visits to a range of aid projects in both Ethiopia and Malawi”.

While in Malawi the President visited a number of Irish Aid funded community projects as well as attending a presentation from Concern, Goal, Trócaire, and Self Help Africa on the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence initiative, which began on November 25th.

 Access to Justice

IRLI was honoured to have been selected to present to President Higgins about the work being done by Irish lawyers to strengthen the capacity of the criminal justice system in Malawi. Excessive use of detention and the lack of a comprehensive legal aid system, amongst other factors, have resulted in considerable overcrowding in Malawi’s prisons.

The work of IRLI in Malawi involves supporting the provision of legal representation to prisoners being detained for prolonged periods without trial, as well as providing targeted training to advocates, police officers, magistrates and other key stakeholders.

IRLI Project Coordinator Jane O’Connell and Programme Lawyer Morgan Crowe presented to President Higgins about the overall approach of IRLI’s project in Malawi, but they invited some of our local partners to attend and to speak about specific activities.

The Chief Resident Magistrate Ms. Ruth Chinanga spoke about IRLI’s magistrates training workshops; Constable Yotamu Chaoaine of the Malawi Police Force explained how he has worked with IRLI to facilitate police trainings as part of the Diversion Training Programme; and young Thokozani Malimbika spoke about her participation in ‘Mwai Wosinthika’, a life skills education programme for at risk youth and young offenders.

In addition, IRLI also works in the Legal Aid Department and Office of the Director of Public Prosecution to support improved case management and case file review, in addition to facilitating Community information sessions to educate people about their legal rights and about the criminal justice system.

‘Fine young people’

The project in Malawi has been running since 2011 and is supported by Irish Aid and the Human Dignity Foundation, as well as from donations and fundraising events. Irish lawyers travel to work on the project for periods of 6-12 months and the success of the project is as a result of the incredible work which these volunteers have done. This was also acknowledged by the President in an interview for the Irish Times where he said that the project is an “initiative that is being assisted by very fine young people from the legal system in Ireland”.

IRLI is a joint initiative of the Law Society of Ireland and Bar Council of Ireland, and the project in Malawi is one of a number of interventions aimed at strengthening governance and the rule of law in development countries.

 

Chief Resident Magistrate Ruth Chinangwa

Chief Resident Magistrate Ms. Ruth Chinanga

 

Thokolani

Thokozani Malimbika

IRISH PRESIDENT VISIT_Police Constable Yotamu Chaoaine3