Malawiâ€™s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Bruno Kalemba has said there is a backlog of murder cases due to lack of special funding.
In a written response to a questionnaire last week, Kalemba said prosecution of homicide cases is an ongoing exercise, but what has not happened for sometime is an exercise to clear homicide cases.
A source at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs earlier said there are about 2 000 murder cases pending trial, with half that number of suspects on bail.
The source said it requires an average of K3 million (about $10 000) to conclude prosecution of one murder case and government normally concentrates on suspects that are on remand. The source said suspects on bail are usually on slow track as government often waits for special funding.
Kalemba said this is an exercise where a specific number of cases are tried within a specific period, usually donor-funded.
He said all High Court registries have set down homicide cases for normal trial in the next court session beginning this October, but there is no special funding from a donor to clear the backlog.
Kalemba said government still has a human resource challenge, apart from the funding hiccups.
Britain, through the Department for International Development (DfID), used to fund trial of murder cases under the Malawi Safety, Security and Access to Justice (Massaj) project. Homicide cases were being tried within a set period nationwide.
DfID was asked on the position of its sponsorship of the project, but it had not yet responded by the time we went to press.
The estimated cost of K3 million per case caters for allowances for judges, the prosecution team from the State Advocate Department and the defence team from Legal Aid Department as they travel from one district to another for trials.
Lawyer Justin Dzonzi, executive director of Justice Link, said in an interview last week it is a cardinal principle of law that justice delayed is justice denied.
Said Dzonzi: â€œThis [delays] amounts to unfair trial as witnesses die and meanwhile the suspects would have served a long jail term without being tried.â€
He said there is nothing substantially difficult about Malawi funding murder trials.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) president John-Gift Mwakhwawa said in an interview government needs to find ways on how best to speed up murder trials without compromising on justice.
Mwakhwawa also feared some suspects would have spent time in custody on offences they may not have committed.