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MHRC calls for improved conditions in prisons

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By Audrey Kapalamula:

A Malawi Police Service and Malawi Prison Service monitoring study which Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) conducted in 2017 has revealed that there are still human rights violations in prisons and police cells of the country.

According to MHRC, the study was aimed at assessing the extent to which Malawi’s prisons have adhered to the court ruling delivered in the Gable Masangano case of 2007, which determined that conditions of prisons in Malawi are unconstitutional

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The report, presented on Monday, showed that there is a lot to be done to improve conditions under which people are detained and the enjoyment of their rights as detained persons.

MHRC Director of Civil and Political Rights, Peter Chisi, said prison and police cells face challenges in terms of capacity, sanitation and nutrition.

“On sanitation, while others have registered some improvements, other prisons still have sanitation problems. Some prison cells do not have flashing toilets and some toilets are [located] outside the cells. We also found that some prisons do not have enough food supplies and some of them have issues to [do] capacity to prepare [for provision of improved services],” he said

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On the issue of capacity, the findings show that prisons are operating at twice their capacity while police cells are overcrowded.

For instance, among major prisons in Malawi, Maula has a recommended capacity of 800 but, at the time of the monitoring exercise, had over 2,800 inmates while Zomba had over 2,200 against the capacity of 800.

It has attributed the development to slow trials of people on remand, incarceration of people convicted of petty offences, among other contributing factors.

Chisi said there is need to find ways of reducing the time people stay on remand as well as increase the capacity of prisons in the country.

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