As a human rights and justice defender based in Zimbabwe, I am motivated and inspired by the work being done by @SiphiweMalihera (colleague from the @leadership_course_2018_participants) and his colleagues at Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) in securing the release of 260 minors who were incarcerated with adults in adult prisons in Malawi. Further, what makes this case interesting and important to me, my organisation Centre Stage Media Arts Foundation (CSMA) and other justice defenders in Zimbabwe is that during ‘shutdown’ protests in Zimbabwe in January 2019, children who were arrested were jailed with adults. Justice defenders were denied access to them, despite the Zimbabwe criminal code expressly outlawing the jailing of minors with adults in adult prisons.
There are also lessons to be drawn from this case in Malawi on liaison and interaction between human rights civil society organisations and the government. Again, with reference to the January 2019 ‘shutdown’ protests in Zimbabwe the government came out strongly against justice defenders and accused them of organising the protests. To date, a number of justice defenders have either been arrested or are on the police wanted list. This unfortunate situation has led to justice defenders scaling down their work or self-censoring themselves when it comes to documenting and reporting human rights violations.
CSMA has a specific project that seeks to help vulnerable children from impoverished urban neighbourhoods access Zimbabwe citizenship through acquiring national identity documents. A number of children that we were in the process of assisting to acquire their citizenship, through acquainting them with the law and the relevant national policies on citizenship were also arrested and some have since been released into the custody of their legal guardians. CSMA would also want to take lessons from CHREAA and Malawi on how to further assist the affected children interms of their rehabilitation and integration into society beyond arming them with the law and how they can use it to access citizenship.
Noting that the socio-political and legal environment in Malawi is almost similar to that obtaining in Zimbabwe, i believe that there is a lot to be learned from the Malawi case. If possible, @SiphiweMalihera can you please share your experiences while navigating this case on this network so that we can learn from your experiences.
A news report on this case can be viewed here: Malawi removes 260 minors from adult prisons - NewsDay Zimbabwe