An international research, policy and advocacy organisation has named Malawi as one of the countries failing to guarantee children’s access to the courts, a situation the organisation says is characteristic of countries with poor human rights records.
The United Kingdom based organisation, Children Rights International Network (CRIN), has ranked Malawi at 152 out of 197 countries on how effectively the country’s legal systems guarantee children’s right to access the courts.
A report CRIN has released called ‘Rights, Remedies and Representation’ takes into account whether children can bring lawsuits when their rights are violated, the legal resources available to them, the practical considerations for taking legal action, and whether international law on children’s rights is applied in national courts.
Malawi ranks worse than Afghanistan (149) while neighbours Zambia (180) and Mozambique (177) have received lower rankings.
Director of CRIN, Veronica Yates says most of the countries which have lower rankings also have awful human rights records.
Yates said: “Our ranking represents how well states allow children access to justice rather than how well their rights are enshrined. However, it is hard to ignore how many countries with deplorable human rights records are on the lower end of the ranking for children’s access to justice.”
The organisation found that in Malawi, the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is directly applicable in the national courts, although it has not been fully incorporated into the country’s legal system. The report by CRIN also notes that the courts have broad powers to hear legal challenges by children which must be brought through a guardian or “next friend”.
According to CRIN, even though Malawi does have a legal aid programme, there are issues with its implementation hence most Malawians cannot access the formal legal mechanisms. The situation, CRIN says, make citizens to use non-state institutions such as traditional family counsellors or religious leaders.
The UN has since welcomed the report saying that it hopes the study “is only the beginning of a new shift in making access to justice for children, a priority that will enable other rights to be fulfilled.”