Friday, 9 March 2012

Press Statement-Law Society of Scotland urges an end to intimidation of human rights lawyers and judicial strikes in Malawi

The Law Society of Scotland is calling for an end to a surge of intimidation and violence against Malawi lawyers and is urging the government there to resolve the current judicial strike action
The Society has voiced its extreme concern over recent attacks which are reported to have taken place on human rights defenders in Malawi.  Chief among them is the recent arrest and detention of Malawian human rights lawyer and former Attorney-General, Mr Ralph Kasambara.  The attack against Mr Kasambara follows widespread reports of harassment and intimidation of other human rights defenders in Malawi.
The Society has called upon the Malawi Government to reaffirm its commitment to the freedoms that are enshrined in the country's constitution; to uphold the protection of the human rights of the citizens of Malawi through its own actions and those of its agencies; and to denounce politically motivated and unlawful ill-treatment of those who choose to exercise their democratic right to freedom of expression.
The Society has also expressed deep concern at the prolonged industrial action currently taking place within the Malawi judiciary and the ongoing and devastating effect this is having on citizens' ability to access the justice system.
Jamie Millar, former president of the Society and a council member on the Commonwealth Law Association, said: "We have developed a close working relationship with the Malawi Law Society in recent years and have worked with its executive director Paula Caetano, which has helped give us a deeper understanding of the challenges they and their members face. The Malawi Law Society does a tremendous amount of work both for its members and for the citizens of Malawi and the latest news from Malawi causes us a great deal of concern.
"We understand that the ongoing strikes, which started in 12 January and have spread from judicial support staff to include judges and magistrates, have effectively brought the country's judicial system to a stand-still. The industrial action is as a result of the Malawi Government's failure to undertake its promised three-yearly salary review of judicial officers. It has also failed to implement the increases that were recommended at the last review in 2006.
"While we are aware of the Malawi Government claims that it is not in a financial position to honour the terms of the 2006 salary review, we would urge its ministers to begin open and constructive negotiations with the staff of the judiciary in the hope that a compromise can be reached that will allow the public their constitutional right of access to justice.
"The strike action has serious and far-reaching implications for Malawi citizens, victims of crime, suspects, law enforcement officials, prisons and police stations.  Furthermore, we are concerned for the well-being of those members of the Malawi Law Society who are self-employed and who rely on the receipt of court fees to support themselves and their families."

ENDS                                                             9 MARCH 2012
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