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Commissioner disowns MHRC statement

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By Peter Kanjere:

CHIZUMA—It does not carry legal authority

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Commissioner, Martha Chizuma, has disowned a statement which the commission’s executive secretary, David Nungu, issued on Monday calling for an end to Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC)-backed nationwide demonstrations.

In an interview Tuesday, Chizuma, who is also the Ombudsman, described the statement as lacking legal backing as the commissioners did not deliberate on it in line with MHRC mandate.

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“That statement does not carry legal authority. The executive secretary would sometimes initiate an issue for the commission to discuss and, sometimes, it emanates from us. In this case, there is nothing that came from the commission. If it is the executive secretary who has initiated it, he or she is still supposed to bring it to us for our input but this did not happen. We just saw the statement on social media; therefore, it does not carry legal authority,” Chizuma said.

Chizuma and Law Commissioner Rosemary Kanyuka are MHRC’s permanent commissioners whereas the rest are appointed and they are waiting to be sworn in.

MHRC is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi and is mandated to defend and protect violations of provisions of the constitution.

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In view of this, Chizuma said, the commissioners decide what to investigate.

In the statement in question, Nungu says MHRC was concerned that the police were failing to provide adequate security during the demonstrations, resulting in looting of property.

Nungu, therefore, urges HRDC to shelve the demonstrations, whose third round is scheduled for tomorrow, and give room for dialogue.

“The negative effects could be avoided if peaceful means of resolving the current electoral disputes were applied. This being the case, the commission appeals to organisers of the demonstrations, HRDC, to consider calling off demonstrations for now and allow room for a reflection meeting with the commission,” Nungu says in the statement.

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