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Judgment Issued in IHRC’s Malawi Case

NEW YORK, NY, NOVEMBER 10, 2009 –The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights notified the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic of a decision in its favor, today, reports the Clinic’s director Professor Chi Mgbako.    The Working Group issued a judgment holding the Malawi government in violation of the due process rights and right to fair trial of three Malawian prisoners on whose behalf the Leitner Clinic had filed claims.

On December 19 2008, the Leitner Clinic submitted complaints to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Lawrence Ndele, Paul Newiri, and Boxton Kudziwe, who as of that date, had been detained without trial at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre, Malawi, for durations ranging from two and a half years to four and a half years.

Under a mandate from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (“WGAD”) is an international independent expert body empowered to accept and issue opinions regarding individual complaints submitted from persons residing in countries party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”).  Malawi is a member of the United Nations and is a State Party to this treaty and is bound to enforce and protect the civil and political rights embodied in the United Nations Charter and the ICCPR.

Upon receiving and reviewing the individual complaints filed in December 2008, WGAD contacted the Government of Malawi by letter dated April 1, 2009 and again on August 20, 2009.   WGAD considers the Malawi Government’s lack of response as tacit acceptance of the allegations, and requests that the Government take all appropriate measures to remedy the arbitrary detention of  Ndele, Newiri, and Kudziwe in violation of their due process rights.  

In accordance with the findings of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Messrs. Ndele, Newiri, and Kudziwe are being unlawfully and arbitrarily detained.  Their continued detention is also a violation of Malawian law.  The Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic calls upon the Malawi Government to dismiss all charges against the complainants and take immediate steps to ensure that the due process rights of the many other Malawian prisoners currently subjected to illegal and arbitrary detention are likewise upheld.

The Leitner fall `08 team consisted of Fordham Law students Michael Ellis (`09) and Janet Kang (`10). Students were supervised by Professor Chi Mgbako and Julie Hassman, an associate at the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.

The Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic aims to train a new generation of human rights lawyers and to inspire results-oriented, practical human rights work throughout the world. The clinic works in partnership with non-governmental organizations and foreign law schools on international human rights projects ranging from legal and policy analysis, public interest litigation, fact-finding and report writing, and human rights training and capacity-building.

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Leitner Center for International Law and Justice
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