AU grills Malawi on Human Rights


The Malawi government is under sharp criticism from the African Union (AU) for failing to address Human Rights issues in the country.

The criticism came after Lilongwe presented the Initial and Combined State Periodic Report to the AU which the latter claimed had serious flaws.

Malawi, alongside other African countries, recently submitted their status reports on Human Rights to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights which was in line with Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.


But in response to Malawi’s submission, the Commission asked the government to clarify, among others issues, the progress into investigations and requisite sanctioning of suspected police officers involved in excessive use of force leading to the death of 20 unarmed protesters in the July 20, 2011 nationwide demonstrations.

It also admonished the government for not doing enough to address outstanding issues of mysterious deaths of activists and protesters.

“What steps has the government taken to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected to be involved in the 2011 killing of Robert Chasowa (Polytechnic student)…and the status with regards to the trial of police officers involved in the beating to death in January 2012 of Edson Msiska who was a student at the Natural Resources College in Lilongwe,” reads the document in part.


Local civil rights activists have been blaming the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration for lacking political will to dispose of the cases whose crimes were committed during its tenure of office between 2009 and 2012.

The AU is also taking Malawi to task over the increase in complaints against state officials including the police, failure by the state to domesticate the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNICAT) which obligates the government to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture.

A prominent lawyer, Mandala Mambulasa, however, said government must ensure that it addresses the grey areas as observed by the commission, some of which he said are critical.

“It is true that the Malawi Police Service should operationalise the Independent Complaints Commission as provided in the Police Act of 2010. This would ensure that there is fairness when it comes to investigating errant police officers unlike it is the case now. But at the same time those officers who are found on the wrong side of the law should contribute to the reparations,” he said.

The document further says the Commission is disturbed with the number of complaints against the police relating to allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of suspects. Among others, the repealing of the Witchcraft Act of 1911, the review of the Prisons Act of 1955 also featured prominently.

Coincidentally, Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu is leading a Malawi government team to Geneva where they are attending a UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which scrutinises human rights records of all UN members.

Tembenu and his team are expected to defend the country’s Human Rights record which has come under fire following a presentation by local activists at the same forum in April, 2015.

Ministry of Justice, which is a recipient of the concerns, said there is progress in many of the areas raised.

The ministry spokes person, Apoche Itimu, said, “The July 20 cases are already with the courts and are just awaiting dates to commence. As for the Chasowa case the Director of Public Prosecutions office is committed to come up with a legal opinion by May, 30, 2015,” she said.

She, however, did not respond on the Msiska case but indicated that the Malawi Law Commission is currently handling the review of the Prisons and Witchcraft Acts.

Malawi’s Human Rights record has been under the microscope in the past few years with social-economic and minority rights being among the critical areas.

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