Malawi Death Penalty Investigation Training Programme

Free men 2

255 are part of an exciting initiative to train paralegals in Malawi to conduct frontline investigation on criminal defence cases and in particular on death penalty resentencing cases in Malawi.

In partnership with the Malawi Human Rights Commission, Reprieve and Cornell Law School we will train paralegals in Malawi and arm them with the skills that will enable them to conduct fact and mitigation investigation to a high standard, investigation work that will strengthen the defence cases of those individuals whose cases they are working on.

The training programme in Malawi will consist of a combination of classroom training and practical frontline in-the-field training and will turn case paralegals into skilled investigators.

In the 2007 case of Kafantayeni v Attorney General, the Malawi High Court struck down the mandatory death penalty as unconstitutional. Until that point, every person found guilty of murder had been automatically sentenced to be hanged without any consideration of the facts or mitigating circumstances of their case.

The Kafantayeni Resentencing Project was initiated following the abolition of the mandatory death penalty. It is led by the Malawi Human Rights Commission and aims to ensure that the 192 prisoners who were sentenced to death as a result of the mandatory regime each receive a sentence rehearing, at which the judge can consider the full mitigating evidence from their case.

Effective, frontline, community-based investigation is required to enable these prisoners to put forward strong cases at their upcoming resentencing hearings. These strong cases will be built around the investigation the paralegals that we will train in Malawi will conduct.

The project has achieved some spectacular results to date.

– 53 sentence rehearings have been fully completed

– 41 prisoners have been granted immediate release from prison (either their immediate release was ordered or they were given a sentence which resulted in them being immediately released on the basis of time already served)

– 12 prisoners have been given sentences which mean they have some more time still to serve in prison; of these, five will be released next year and six will be released in the next four years.

Free men

However, there are still 110 prisoners awaiting their sentence rehearing. 255 will train paralegals in Malawi to be able to conduct more effective and impactful fact and mitigation investigation.

This will have a huge impact not just on the cases under the Kafantayeni Resentencing Project but also on cases across the criminal justice system in Malawi. Paralegals that are skilled in investigation will be an essential part of future legal teams, through their work helping to prevent future injustice and ensure justice within the Malawian legal system. Improving fact and mitigation investigation will raise the standard of legal representation being provided to those facing criminal charges or journeying through the appeal process.

Please see the guide that we have written in partnership with Reprieve, Cornell Law School and the Malawi Human Rights Commission