Summary: IHRDA reaches historic settlement in child rights case against government of Malawi

Banjul, 27 October 2016: SRT grantee IHRDA has set a new precedent in African child rights litigation by reaching a settlement in a case against the government of Malawi before the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC). The agreement was reached at the ACERWC’s 28th Ordinary Session in Banjul, The Gambia.

In 2014 IHRDA filed a communication before the ACERWC, challenging the definition of “child” in Malawi’s Constitution. The Constitution defines a child as a person under the age of 16, in contravention of article 2 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which defines a child as every person below the age of 18. As a result of this discrepancy, people aged between 16 and 18 have not been afforded protection as per Malawi’s international obligations.

In recognition of this, the government of Malawi has informed the ACERWC that it has already begun the process of instituting a constitutional amendment to bring its law into conformity with the Charter, and has proposed an amicable settlement of the case with a view to formally committing itself to the necessary reforms.

According to the settlement agreement, Malawi commits “to do everything within its power to amend its Constitution and all other relevant laws to be in compliance with article 2 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child by 31 December 2018”, and to report periodically to the ACERWC on “the progress it has made to implement this Agreement”. It also commits to taking interim measures to protect children in Malawi while the law reform process is completed.

IHRDA said, “The move by the Government of Malawi to resolve the contentious case amicably is the first of its kind in the history of the ACERWC, and sets a good example for the region of a State’s proactive response.”

Full press release from IHRDA’s website:

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