Malawi

Former President, Judge, both ordered to pay legal costs from their own pockets

In a further stunning reversal for Malawi’s former President, Peter Mutharika, he and a former high court judge, Lloyd Muhara, have been ordered personally to pay the legal costs of a case brought to reverse a major decision taken by them just before the elections at which Mutharika was voted out of office. By that decision they hoped to force the Chief Justice to go on leave, pending retirement, in retaliation for a judicial decision finding that the May 2019 elections were invalid.

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Malawi’s judiciary has done it again, handing down a landmark decision that underscores judicial independence and the separation of powers, as well as the heavy price to be paid for anyone who attempts to do so.

The story begins with Malawi’s former President, Peter Mutharika, who had some harsh and dubious things to say about the judiciary and its power relative to the legislature.

Bail for death row prisoner after long appeal delay

Normally a reader might have little sympathy for someone convicted of murder who is serving time in prison. But the case of Malawian Charles Khoviwa is rather different. Sitting on death row for many years, Khoviwa has been trying to have sentence in his case reconsidered, now that the courts have decided that the mandatory death penalty, in force at the time of his conviction, is unconstitutional.

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Malawi’s judiciary is being hailed internationally for its bravery, sense of justice and protection of judicial independence.

International honour for Malawi’s judges

When five of Malawi’s judges overturned that country’s presidential elections in 2019 because of 'grave irregularities', it seemed a brave and startling thing to do. Their decision led to fresh elections and then to a change in government. Now it has also caused them to win an international award, the Chatham House Prize, given to those the institute feels have made the most significant contribution to improved international relations.

It was no small thing that they did: when five Malawian judges overturned the 2019 presidential elections on account of ‘widespread, systematic and grave irregularities’ they knew the risks; on the day they delivered their judgment they came to court with an armed escort and wearing bullet-proof vests.

Announcing the award that is to be given to the judges, Dr Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House said that their ruling was ‘unprecedented in a country where past elections have been marred by irregularities, electoral fraud and violence.’

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