Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), in collaboration with other five non-governmental organizations, have written president Lazarus Chakwera to decongest the country’s prisons by half to avoid the continued spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
CHREA’s Deputy Executive Director, Chikondi Chijozi and Litigation Officer, Ruth Kayima, have confirmed the development saying the letter was sent to the president on Monday, July 21.
On July 16, the first confirmed COVID-19 case of an inmate was recorded at Chichiri prison pausing a threat to the highly congested prisons in the country.
Other institutions that have joined hands with CHREAA to pen the president, are the Paralegal Advisory Service (PAS), Child Rights Advocacy and Paralegal Aid Centre (CRAPAC), and two other international based institutions, The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the Irish Rule of Law (IRL).
According to Kayima, the intention of the letter is to ask the head of state to consider implementing strategies that will assist decongesting all the prisons across the country and put in place other preventive measures.
Kayima said: “As CHREAA and other organizations we have written the president to exercise his powers accorded to him by the constitution to consider releasing some prisoners so as to decongest the facilities across the country to minimize the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.”
In addition, she said the letter has also asked for the provision of testing kits in the prison facilities.
The President has wide powers under section 89(2) of the Constitution to facilitate congestion of prisons through pardoning the convicted offenders, to granting stays of execution of sentence, reducing sentences and remitting sentences.
As of July 20, the country had recorded over 3000 cases.