A group of human rights Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) led by legal action charity, Reprieve, has expressed dismay over the transfer of female inmates from Maula Prison to Mzuzu.
In a statement released this week, Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI), Saint Egidio, Irish Rule of Law, Women Lawyers Association (WLA) and Reprieve have described the transfer as unprecedented, and devastating to female prisoners, who are now far from their families.
The six human rights NGOs have disclosed that many female inmates are now lacking support from relatives due to long distance that has been created by transfers.
“A group of 49 women formerly held at Maula Prison, Lilongwe have been transferred to as far as Mzuzu, six hours by public transport, meaning their families cannot bring them food and other essentials such as sanitary items,” reads part of the statement.
Human rights NGOs have further disclosed worry on female inmates as they now live in decongested cells where they are now being transfers hence putting them at risk of contracting novel Coronavirus.
Commenting on the development, Social Justice Advocate Alexious Kamangira has urged Government to take swift action on the matter through decongesting the country’s prisons by pardoning inmates who are now considered to be harmless to the society.
“Civilization of a nation is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable. The way we are treating vulnerable prisoners in a pandemic reflects badly on Malawi. Talking of elderly prisoners who are at high risk due to existing medical condition and this action of transferring female inmates kilometers away from their families is another absurd decision that we are now witnessing in this country,” said Kamangira.
Concurring with Kamangira, President of WLA Counsel Tadala Chinkhwezule has faulted Government for transferring female inmates to some prisons of the country.
“It could have been ideal for them to be moved to alternative places within the places where they were remanded. WLA thus appeals to the authorities to review their decision and make arrangements that commensurate with the rights of women and children that are on remanded and in prisons in Malawi,” said Chinkhwezule.
Malawi Government through the its prison service embarked on transferring female prisoners to some parts of the country as a way of creating space to new suspects on remand.
Some female inmates from Maula, Zomba, Thyolo and Mzimba prisons have been relocated to some prisons across the country.
Reports reveal that some female inmates from Maula have been transferred to Kasungu and Dedza prisons. Some female prisoners from Zomba Central Prison have now been relocated to Domasi Prison.