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Foreign CSOs write police over attacks on human rights activists

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By Feston Malekezo:

James Kadadzera

About 15 local and international civil society organisations (CSOs) have written Malawi Police Service (MPS) Inspector General Rodney Jose, asking his office to investigate thoroughly attacks on human rights defenders and ensure protection of all Malawians.

The organisations include Africa Centre for International Law and Accountability of Ghana, Africa Legal Aid, Amnesty International, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law from Sierra Leone, Enough Project Human Rights Watch, Kenya Human Rights Commission and Nigeria Coalition for the ICC.

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The government of Malawi has obligations under domestic and international law to ensure full protection of human rights including freedom of expression, association, personal liberty and security. The Malawi Police Service and other responsible state institutions should reassure all citizens and act to ensure their protection, including human rights defenders who should be able to do their important work without fear of attacks or harassment. We urge the Malawi Police Service to act on these concerns,” reads the letter in part.

The letter, dated October 9 2018, cites an incident of August 30 2018 when five thugs invaded Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) offices in Lilongwe and beat up a security guard before trying to petrol-bomb the premises.

CHRR Director, Timothy Mtambo, who has seen the letter, said the police have not indicated any progress in investigations on the attack.

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The letter includes recent incidents in which unknown individuals sent death threats to Youth and Society Director, Charles Kajoloweka, and another in which opposition legislator Agnes Nyalonje and United Transformation Movement’s vehicles were torched in Mangochi District.

“As Malawians enter the campaign period ahead of national elections expected in May next year, the police should do more to curb incidents of harassment and political violence.

“Decisive police action to thoroughly investigate and arrest those responsible would help to end impunity for these crimes and send a clear message of zero-tolerance for political violence and related abuses,” the letter adds.

MPS spokesperson, James Kadadzera, Sunday said they have not received the letter but “will respond adequately once we have the letter”.

Contacted from the United States, Enough Project Human Rights Watch official Elise Kepplar Sunday owned the press release.

The police are also yet to get to the bottom of the killing of The Polytechnic student Robert Chasowa in Blantyre in 2011 and gruesome murder of Anti-Corruption Bureau director of operations and administration Issa Njaunju in Lilongwe a few years ago.

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