Malawi

Tough new approach to sentencing in child rape cases

A significant development is under way in Malawi’s high court judgments on sentencing in child rape cases. Three new decisions by a couple of high court judges show a clear determination to treat such crimes with great seriousness and for sentencing to reflect the gravity of the crimes. The judges have also made significant critiques of aspects of defilement cases, with suggestions for what can be done to improve matters.

Malawi joins growing trend outlawing death penalty

First, Malawi’s courts found it was unconstitutional for the death penalty to be mandatory in cases where the accused was convicted of murder. Now the apex court has found, by an overwhelming majority, that the death penalty itself is unconstitutional, and has ordered that everyone on death row must be re-sentenced. One member of the court dissented, without ever commenting on the issue of the constitutionality of the death penalty, finding that the route to resolving the appeal before the nine judges could be resolved in a different way.

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The route to scrapping the death penalty came via an appeal brought to the apex court by Charles Khoviwa, convicted of murder in 2003.

Faced with 'wrongful allegations' of bribery, judge recuses herself

A prominent judge of Malawi’s high court has announced her recusal from a case involving the death of a woman allegedly at the hands of her husband. Judge Fiona Mwale has recused herself from the trial following claims by the family of the dead woman that bribe money had been collected to pay the presiding officer in the matter. She said that there was no truth in the claim, but that she felt she had to quit the trial so that the bribery allegation could be investigated.

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The contentious matter of recusal has emerged again. This time it takes the form of what could well be a deliberate attempt to force a judge to stand down from a controversial matter she has been hearing.

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