The Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) and the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) are saddened by reports that the police in Mulanje have kept in detention a 13-year-old boy for more than six days without a charge or bail on allegations of theft. CHREAA and SALC would like to remind the Malawi Police Service that in all cases dealing with children, without any exceptions, the paramount consideration is the best interests of the child. Detention of children is clearly prohibited under the Child Care Protection and Justice Act unless the same is authorized by the Child Justice Court upon the Director of Public Prosecution satisfying the Court that it is necessary to do so. In 2021 the High Court of Malawi held that detention of children in police custody is a violation of section 23(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, section 88 of the Child Care Protection and Justice Act and article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which all protect the best interests of the child.
A child can only be detained in a Safety Home or a Reformatory Centre not in police custody. Section 96(1) of the Child Care Protection and Justice Act provides that where an order of detention of a child is made before liability against the child is made, the child should be detained in a Safety Home. Malawi has 7 designated Safety Homes across the country; Chilwa Reformatory Centre in the Eastern Region, Namisu, Acquiaid Life and Mpemba Reformatory Centers in the Southern region, Chance for Change and the Social Rehabilitation Centre in the Central Region and the YONECO Safety Home in the Northern Region. It is unlawful and unacceptable for police officers to detain children in police custody despite having these Safety Homes.
CHREAA and SALC will ensure that the police officers who are responsible for illegal detention of children in police custody face the law. CHREAA and SALC urge all police officers to respect the rule of law and discharge their duties within the ambit of the law. Detention of children in police stations is not an option and should be put to a stop immediately.
CHREAA and SALC therefore call for the immediate release of the child held at Mulanje Police Station as his detention is unlawful.