The United Nations (UN) has turned down a Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs funding request for the prosecution of homicide cases that could result in death sentences, it has been learnt.
Dzikondianthu Malunda, the ministry’s senior assistant chief State advocate in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), disclosed this at Parliament yesterday during a meeting between Parliament’s Committee on Community and Social Welfare and other stakeholders.
The meeting, which also had representation from Association of People living with Albinism in Malawi (Apam), Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the office of the DPP, was convened to probe successes and challenges in the fight against attacks and killings of people with albinism in the country.
Malunda said the refusal by UN to fund cases that would see convicts getting death sentences put them in an awkward situation as the directorate did not have finances to prosecute the cases.
He said: “The UN were able to fund the DPP to prosecute 13 cases. I should indicate that at first we were working under the impression that we were going to prosecute all the cases.
“And for us, that meant that we were going to prioritise cases where life was lost or where there was an attempt to take away life.”
But Malunda pointed out that sometime in December 2016 and January 2017, the UN indicated to them it could not fund prosecution of homicide cases that would end up into death sentences being meted out on the convicts.
He said this was the case because UN had asked the DPP whether they would lobby for the death sentences “to be meted out in a number of cases”.
Said Malunda: “We answered in the affirmative because to us, any attacks on any person let alone a person with albinism are supposed to be treated with the seriousness that they deserve. So, we were of the view that, whichever, we were going to court to lobby for some of the accused persons to receive death sentences.”
However, he said the UN was still withholding the funding, a development that forced DPP to operate by submitting funding requests and UN releases funding for a particular assignment or a particular session of prosecution or pretrial activities.
Apam president Overstone Kondowe expressed discontent with the speed at which DPP and police are moving to prosecute cases surrounding attacks and killings of people with albinism.
He wondered why, despite amendments to the Anatomy Act, the State and the police are yet to secure stiffer penalties for people convicted of attacking or killing people with albinism.
Committee chairperson Richard Chimwendo Banda said members of Parliament (MPs) were concerned with the slow pace at which DPP and police are responding to the implementation of the Anatomy Act. n