African rights organisations and lawyer associations have advised President Peter Mutharika’s administration to refrain from forcing Judges to go on leave and to respect independence of the Judiciary.
The rights groups and lawyers associations from across Africa released a joint statement on Sunday following attempts by the Executive to fire Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and Justice of Appeal Edward Twea.
Chief Secretary to the Government told Twea and Nyirenda to go on leave pending retirement.
Nyirenda is expected to retire in December 2021 while Twea will retire in April, 2021.
In their statement, the rights groups said the announcement by Muhara is an attempt to interfere with the independence of the Judiciary.
According to the statement, in terms of both the domestic and international law, the Government of Malawi has an obligation to respect the security of tenure of judges and to respect the independence of the Judiciary.
“Whilst it is appropriate for a Chief Justice or any judicial officer to go on leave pending their retirement, the decision to do so must be made voluntarily by the concerned judicial officer in consultation with the Judicial Service commission,” the rights groups said.
They added that a decision by a Judge to go on leave cannot be communicated by the executive on behalf of the Judges or the Judiciary.
“It must be communicated by the Chief Justice and or the Judicial Service Commission.
“For the reason that the statement has been issued by the executive branch of government, and that the statement does not disclose whether or not the Chief Justice and Judge Edward Twea did voluntarily made the decision, we view this announcement as an attempt to interfere with the independence of the judiciary,” the groups said.
They then condemned the government’s notice as unconstitutional, unprocedurally issued and therefore, patently void.
The rights groups also urged Nyirenda and Twea to continue with their functions as judicial officers.
Government’s attempts to send Twea and Nyirenda on leave come a month after the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the nullification of the 2019 elections.
Twea and Nyirenda were part of the seven-Judge panel of the court.