The High Court in Blantyre on Tuesday outlawed provisions that imprison children who are deemed to be in conflict with the law following an application by some civil society organizations.
The application was argued by Fostino Maele and supported by a number of civil society organisations including Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), Youth Watch Society and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC).
Earlier this year, the court head that the conditions at Bvumbwe and Kachere prisons are deplorable and not in the best interests of children who are in conflict with the law.
“Currently a number of children are detained awaiting trial or serving sentences at Bvumbwe and Kachere prisons even though these facilities are not formally designated as safety homes or reformatory centres,” reads part of the ruling.
The Inspectorate of Prisons in its 2016 report to Parliament noted that Kachere prison had severe shortage of food and the risk of disease outbreak while at Bvumbwe prison the report noted that cells were poorly ventilated and toilets inside the cells were without running water.
Presiding over the case, Justice Sylvester Kalembera, stated that it was illegal to detain or remand a child in a prison or to imprison a child for any offence and that the law stipulates that children should be brought before Child Justice Centers and not ordinary magistrates’ courts.
Therefore In his judgment, Justice Kalembera ordered that all children detained at Kachere and Bvumbwe prisons pending trial and those that were found guilty by a competent court should be transferred to safety homes and reformatory centers within 30 days.
The court declared null and void the law that puts children in prison and set aside all orders made by second and third grade magistrates against the children.
It also ordered that the children should be retried before a properly constituted child justice court within 30 days.