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The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) operates a Paralegal clinic that is aimed at providing small scale legal advice and remedy to members of the community that it operates in.

These cases usually involve people who feel that their human rights have been violated in one way or the other. The services are offered for free.

Among the services the clinic offers include:

  • Counseling
  • Litigation
  • Refering of cases to relevant authorities and institutions

Notable cases that are usually handled at this clinic range from Gender Based Violence, labour, immigration issues, political violence, and land disputes.

The year 2018 once again registered milestone achievements in handling complaints. The paralegal department was patronized by clients that wanted human rights redress. In the year 2018, CHRR Handled 193. CHRR through this department was able to provide solutions for human rights violations. CHRR documented human rights abuses, tried to collect evidence, resolved some cases and referred others to relevant institutions for redress.Out of the total of 193 cases, 31 were registered in Dowa, 69 in Lilongwe, 6 in Karonga while 87 were handled in Salima district. Many of the cases registered were Labour related followed by land disputes. Out of all the cases registered, 121 cases were resolved, 43 were referred and 29 are pending.

NATURE AND NUMBER OF CASES HANDLED

Following is a tabulation of the number and nature of cases handled by the paralegal department in the year, 2017

TYPES OF RIGHTS VIOLATED

  1. Right to Fair Labour Practices

CHRR recorded a total of 73 labour cases. Most of these were from those that were informally employed and the rest were from formal employment. The recorded complaints were on unfair dismissal, unpaid wages and unremitted compensation.

Below is the summary of how the cases were handled.

TYPE OF CASE

#  OF CASE

SOURCE OF PROBLEM

PROGRESS

CHALLENGES

Unfair dismissal

43

Employers terminated contracts without proper grounds and without notice.

CHRR reached out to the employers. Some agreed to be in the wrong and for those who were uncooperative they were referred to court

Court cases take longer to conclude to the distress of many clients.

Child labour

14

Children were employed as cattle herders and house helps.

CHRR volunteers are raising awareness in their communities about human rights and how this practice infringes on human rights especially the right to education.

Animosity has developed between communities against  CBEs for speaking against child labour.

Unremitted pension

3

Clients complained to not have been given their pension despite making contributions

CHRR reached out to the employers

Employers wrote insurance companies for the remission of the 60% contribution

unpaid Salary

10

Clients were not paid their dues

Cases referred to labour Office. In the end clients got their dues.

Some employees were dodgy which dragged the period for redress.

compensation

3

Clients were injured at work, hence needed compensation.

CHRR referred clients to get their papers done at labour office

Compensation pending

 

  1. Civil Rights

CHRR received 37 cases on violation of different rights including right to education, right to life and right to health services.

Below is the table on how cases were handled.

TYPE OF CASE

# of CASE

SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM

PROGRESS

CHALLENGES

Right to Education

5

Children were forced to be doing manual labour instead of going to school

CHRR referred the cases to police

Delay by the police to intervene was dissatisfactory

Right to life

1

Client complained that his life was in danger.

Case was referred to the police.

Client seemed to have a mental disorder and was further referred to the hospital for psychiatric help.

Right to access health services

19

Complainants claimed that they were denied access to drugs while those that came after them were provided with.

This issue has been sorted by engaging health workers and sensitising them on universal health coverage

At first health workers thought the communities are being confrontational but now they understand health rights and cordial relationships have developed

Right to access justice

12

Clients complained that judgments are delayed.

CHRR advised them to be patient because at times judgments delay due to backlog of cases.

 
  1. Right to Land

CHRR received 39 cases of this kind. Some clients complained that their land demarcations had been altered. For others chiefs had sold their land and others had their land confiscated by relations of their late husbands.     

TYPE OF CASE

# of CASE

SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM

PROGRESS

CHALLENGES

Land wangles

35

Clients complained that their land demarcations had been altered. Others had their land taken away relations of their late husband.

Client was advised to seek help from TA on the land issue.

 

Chieftaincy wrangle

4

Clients complained that their chiefs crowned other people to be chiefs without procedures.

CHRR referred the cases to court and DC’s offices in the districts.

 
  1. Women’s rights

Under women’s rights violence against women was high. CHRR received 16 cases in this criterion. All the women alleged that their men were engaged in extra marital affairs and were ill-treating them.

TYPE OF CASE

# of CASE

SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM

PROGRESS

CHALLENGES

Lack of support

13

They complained that their husbands were having extra marital affairs and were not supporting the home.

The Cases were handled at the court and victim support unit.

Hearing delayed in court

Wife battering

3

Clients complained that their husbands beat them.

CHRR referred the cases to police

Cases were handled.

  1. Right to property

CHRR received 7 complaints of property grabbing. Clients alleged that their property had been grabbed by relations of their late husband.

TYPE OF CASE

# of CASE

SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM

STATUS OF CASE

PROGRESS

CHALLENGES

Property Grabbing

7

Clients complained that their husbands’ relatives’ had taken properties from them.

CHRR referred cases  to court

Cases have been handled at the court.

 

Other cases that were handled

Kind of case

# of cases registered

Progress

Unlawful detention by a financial lending Institution

2

Victims were unlawfully detained by Vision Fund for defaulting loan payment. Cases were referred to Salima Police.

Road Accident Compensation claims

2

The two cases involved road accidents victims who never got compensation. Cases were referred to Women’s Legal Resources Centre.

Child Abduction / trafficking

2

Two girls from Futi Village were trafficked to Kasungu on the pretext that they would get married. These girls were 16 and 15 years of age respectively. The case was referred to police and the girls were rescued

Nyau Torture

1

A man was severely beaten by nyau. Case was referred to court and the man was compensated by cult elders

Common Assault

1

The complainant was beaten by the neighbors. CHHR referred it to court and the man was paid damages.

Thefts

6

Offenders were given suspended sentences by the magistrate without any compensation to the victims. CHRR using the judgment as evidence of theft, referred the matter back to court where the victims were compensated by using the restoration law.

Witchcraft

4

3 cases were handled and the fourth one was referred to police because there was an element of assault.

     

Using insulting language

3

All cases completed

       

Successes;

  • The coming in of more people seeking legal advice is indeed a milestone in the work of CHRR in the district.
  • More people even from outside Salima district come to seek legal assistance from the office and is one of the most trusted organization in terms of transparency accountability.
  • The office can also ably handle cases referred by the magistrate, an indicator of being nonpartisan in whatever the organization is doing.

Challenges;

  • The office receives more cases than it can handle, however much is that some are referred to stakeholders due to mobility problems. In turn It takes a lot of time before a case is completed.
  • The motor bicycle we have required servicing. Documentation is one key priority area of the project successes. There is a great need for having an office digital camera and a sound recorder.
  • Cases that we refer such as land cases and marriage by repute or co- habilitation are not handled by the magistrate court due to new land Act and the Family Relations, Marriage and Divorce Act 2015. These are currently handled by the High Court, making it difficult for us to handle.
  • .Resources constraints made it difficult to monitor human rights violations in the district.
  • Limited community awareness on human rights makes difficult for the victims to report human rights abuses and even to give in evidence for fear of reprisals. As a result cases are not completed or are just abandoned.
  • Judicial Officers (the magistrate) take advantage on people’s ignorance about the laws of Malawi as a result they deliberately make errors in law and pass a wrong judgement to the disadvantage of the poor and marginalised.

However, the clinic has for along time now operated without funding. If you feel you can help in one way or the other to see to it that this clinic continues to provide its services please donate by contacting us.