Malawi Law Society (MLS) has appealed for calm following a public outcry over the K255 684 112 legal costs government is expected to pay Women Lawyers Association (WLA) for representing 18 women raped in Msundwe, Mbwatalika and Mpingu trading centres in Lilongwe.
In a statement issued on Sunday and co-signed by MLS president Patrick Mpaka and honorary secretary Chrispin Ngunde, the lawyers’ body observes that the State has 21 days from August 6 2021 to seek review of the court order.
Reads the statement in part: “The tax payers’ money will not ordinarily be disbursed before the expiry of 14 days from August 6 2021. There should, therefore, be no public anxiety if the State is willing to challenge the award of K255 684 112 under the due process of the Court.”
The Law Society body described the party to party costs in the Msundwe case rape as “unusual and unjustified” and said they share the public outcry over the amount the High Court has awarded to WLA which represented Msundwe rape victims on pro bono basis, which is a public service.
The society has since recommended that the respondents in the matter take out review proceedings against the award in line with Ord. 31 r. 17 of the Courts (High Court) (Civil Procedure) Rules.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has called on Women Lawyers Association (WLA) to address concerns over the K255 million costs awarded to them in the Msundwe rape case.
In a statement issued on Saturday signed by MHRC chairperson Scader Louis, said the commission called on WLA to provide the public with information in relation to the funds received in the case and further clarify the pro bono services rendered to the Msundwe victims.
MHRC says it has been getting queries from the public on the matter; hence, the information will help address the concerns as well as educate the public on what pro bono services are and in what circumstances costs are awarded by courts.
Reads the statement in part: “Women Lawyers Association being an organisation which carries out work related to rights and freedoms of people, has a duty under Section 15 of the Access to Information Act to make available to the general public information in its custody or under its custody in relation to funds received for litigation in the Msundwe case and further clarify the pro bono services rendered to the Msundwe victims.”
The commission further says the clarification will help restore the public’s trust in the association.
WLA in a statement on Saturday said both compensation and costs were orders of the court that were given after assessing all legal issues that were brought before it.
The violence at Msundwe, on the outskirts of Lilongwe City followed protests that ensued post-May 21 2019 presidential election.
Police allegedly went on the rampage in the areas following the stoning of their colleague Suwedi Iman, by residents during protests.