The Supreme Court of Appeal on Friday granted Malawi Government a stay order, stopping proceedings in which the High Court in Blantyre was set to start reviewing convictions of three men involved in homosexuality.
High Court judge Dunstain Mwaungulu on January 20 this year threw out an application the Attorney General (AG) filed, asking the court to stop the proceedings on the basis that the applicants did not get certification of the matter from the Chief Justice.
Mwaungulu argued it was not mandatory and proceeded to set March 17 as a date a seven-judge-member panel was to start hearing the matter.
But the AG, unsatisfied with the ruling, applied for a stay order of the proceedings before the Supreme Court and Justice Jane Ansah issued the order on Friday.
Ansah ordered the AG to file grounds of the appeal within 14 days and a date would be set for all the parties to battle it out.
Mwaungulu argued that the Chief Justice’s certification was not mandatory and that the case, though examining constitutionality of laws that criminalises homosexual, was simply a confirmation matter of convictions made by magistrate courts in Blantyre.
The AG, represented by lawyer Tione Namanja, had argued earlier that the commencement of the matter was irregularly done; hence the application to have it dismissed.
The case had on January 20 attracted a dozen lawyers representing different friends of the court.
The friends of the court included the Malawi Law Society (MLS), the Centre for Development of People (Cedep), the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), the Law Faculty at Chancellor College and UNAids.
All parties, including MCP president Lazarus Chakwera’s son, Pastor Nick Chakwera, who is siding with the AG to oppose repealing of laws that criminalises homosexuality, were asked to prepare and present their submissions, but with the appeal, they will now have to battle it out first at the Supreme Court.
The three men convicted in 2011 by magistrates’ courts in Blantyre are Amon Champyuni, Mathews Bello and Mussa Chiwisi and are serving sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years.
Gay activists want the court to declare the laws that criminalise homosexuality unconstitutional.
The gay issue has been an emotive matter as donors and the United Nations have been calling on Malawi to accept gays and repeal laws that criminalise same-sex relationships.