Judiciary authorities have said Malawi’s efforts in dealing with human trafficking cases are being hampered by lack of friendly courts and safe homes for survivors.
Justice Rezine Mzikamanda SC of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal made the remarks at the weekend at Mzimba Boma where the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) handed over a newly constructed court to the Judiciary.
“Despite Malawi passing an Anti-Trafficking Legislation in 2015, and a National Action Plan in August 2017, currently, the country has very few victim-friendly courts and safe homes for survivors and witness protection.
“Lack of such facilities is posing a serious challenge for the court to arrive at a proper and just sentence. Perpetrators of this crime know of the absence of such facilities and take advantage,” Mzikamanda said.
He reiterated that the Trafficking in Persons Act provides for strong witness protection mechanisms centering on confidentiality, based on, among others, gender responsive, child-centred and stakeholder participation.
Mzikamanda, who is also board chairperson of Women Judges Association of Malawi (Wojam), said the Judiciary has since put in place a deliberate policy to rehabilitate some of its courts to the required standards.
On his part, NCA country representative Stein Villumstad said many victims and witnesses are currently not ready to come forward to pursue justice in court due to fear for their own safety.
“Local communities need to be mobilised to prevent human trafficking to be allowed and practised, which takes awareness raising. Initiatives need to be put in place to serve victims of trafficking, assisting them to return to society with dignity and future prospects,” he advised.
Construction of the K52.2 million Mzimba court was funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, through NCA’s Gender Justice programme.
Norway’s deputy ambassador Bjarne Garden, who is also head of development cooperation, said the structure would help serve least advantaged people in society. n