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Court moves on Msundwe sexual assault

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A case in which police officers are alleged to have sexually assaulted 18 women and girls at Mpingu, M’bwatalika and Msundwe in Lilongwe rural on October 8 last year is set to proceed for hearing on July 30 and 31 after the Women Lawyers Association (WLA) has been granted audience for that application on July 16.

WLA sued the Malawi government seeking redress and accountability for the alleged violation of the rights of the women and girls who were apparently subjected to violence, rape and sexual assault in the said areas.

The attack was apparently retaliation for the brutal murder of a police officer who had gone to Msundwe to quell protests that some people were staging against then-president Peter Mutharika.

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The Malawi Human Rights Commission instituted an enquiry that concluded that the women and girls were sexually assaulted. The police too instituted their own enquiry whose results have never been known to the public.

On May 26, the State was ordered by the court to file and serve witness statements and skeleton arguments with 14 days from that date.

“[The State] having not done so to-date, WLA has applied to court for a sanction and for striking out of the defence,” reads a statement WLA Public Relations Officer Mphatso Iphani released Wednesday.

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It adds: “The Women Lawyers Association continues to work with the concerned women and girls to ensure that they access justice and other appropriate legal and non-legal remedies and support.”

Last year, the Malawi Police Service (MPS) announced that its inquiry team would comprise Commissioner Arlene Baluwa and other professionals who were to look into the allegations in a transparent and independent manner.

But some observers faulted the arrangement, saying the police would not investigate themselves and went on to charge that nothing conclusive would come out of the investigation.

The observers also argued that MPS with its crime investigation skills would have easily identified who of its officers sexually assaulted the women and girls as the institution should have had a clear record of who had been assigned for the mission to maintain calm in the said areas.

On the statement by WLA, MPS spokesperson James Kadadzera said he would be table to competently comment after going through it.

“However, we did communicate times without number that the police will see to it that this case comes to its logical conclusion,” Kadadzera said.

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