The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has said stakeholders in the Kafantayeni Project — which is rehearing murder cases of prisoners sentenced to death — are conducting village interviews as one way of reconstructing 82 court files that went missing.
The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) is running the project which aims at giving a second chance to 170 prisoners on death row to be reheard.
Some cases have already been reheard and the condemned people have been released.
Senior Assistant Chief State Advocate in the Office of the DPP, Dzikondianthu Malunda, said the stakeholders are contacting witnesses who testified in the cases and village leaders to give a picture of what exactly happened.
“In that way, we are to the best of our ability, reconstructing the files so that the story should not be different from what actually took place,” Malunda said.
According to Malunda, they are currently investigating cases in the sixth and seventh phases which happen to be the last phases and when investigations in these phases are completed, the cases will be taken to court for rehearing.
“We have gone past the middle and the projection is that we should be through by March 2017,” he said.
In 2007, the High Court of Malawi abolished the mandatory death penalty in what has become to be known as the Kafantayeni Ruling.
The court deemed the mandatory death penalty unconstitutional because it tantamounts to an arbitrary deprivation of life, denies an accused the right to a fair trial and the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment.
The ruling was named after Francis Kafantayeni who was convicted for the murder of his stepson in 2002.
The rehearing of cases gives prisoners the opportunity to present mitigating evidence before the court so that a judge may be persuaded to hand down a sentence other than death.
The DPP and MHRC are implementing the Tilitonse-funded project in collaboration with other human rights bodies such as the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance, Chancellor College Faculty of Law, Cornell Law School and Malawi Prison Service.
The Legal Aid Bureau and the Paralegal Advisory Service International are also part of the implementing team.
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