Zomba, Malawi – On Wednesday 30 January 2019, the Malawi High Court, will hear argument on an interim application to prevent prisoners with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) from being returned to prison.
In October 2018, the Zomba High Court granted six MDR-TB infected inmates and Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) an urgent interim order preventing the inmates from being returned to prison from hospital where they were receiving treatment. CHREAA and the inmates brought the application on an urgent basis out of concern that if the inmates (who were due to be released from hospital) were returned to prison, this would violate not only their constitutional rights but also the rights of all other inmates and people working in and visiting the prisons who would be exposed to a high risk of MDR-TB infection. While the inmates remained in hospital, the Court granted further orders to prevent the government from chaining and shackling the men, a practice amounting to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in their condition.
On Wednesday, the Zomba High Court will hear argument from both sides on whether the 6 inmates, who are still undergoing treatment for MDR-TB, should be returned back to prison or to their respective homes after being discharged from the hospital pending the outcome of a constitutional case. The six inmates and CHREAA are seeking that, pending the certification and determination of the constitutional case, the six inmates should be released from detention to continue their treatment on an outpatient basis, where the risk of TB transmission is lower and treatment options more comprehensive and humane. They are seeking further orders to guarantee adequate nutritional support for their effective treatment, as per Malawi’s 2018 National TB Control Programme.
The Attorney General is opposing the interim application and argue that the six inmates should be returned to prison.
In the constitutional case, the inmates and CHREAA seek final orders for the release of the sick inmates as well as other orders to ensure they receive adequate healthcare and support on their release to ensure their prospects of recovery and prevent further transmission. In addition, they seek orders to reform prison conditions that they argue led to the outbreak of MDR-TB and which exacerbate the risk of TB in the prisons. This includes conditions of severe overcrowding and inadequate TB screening, treatment and prevention services. The six inmates and CHREAA are asking the court in the constitutional case to monitor the government’s development and enforcement of these reforms and to ensure a mechanism to deal with any new cases of drug-resistant TB while the reforms are underway.
The case is supported by the CHREAA and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). The claimants are represented by Chikondi Chijozi.
When: Wednesday, 30 January 2019
Where: Zomba High Court, Malawi
What: Richard Banda and Others v the Attorney General and Others Civil Cause No 120 of
2018, Inter partes hearing on interlocutory injunction application
Fact sheet can be accessed here.
More information on the case is available at: https://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/2019/01/17/malawi-seeking-an-effective-and-humane-response-to-mdr-tb-in-prison/.
Follow @CHREAAMalawi and @Follow_SALC on Twitter with #MDRTBMalawi for updates on the case.