The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) says it has advised its lawyers to file a charge of contempt of court against Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa following the police’s move to disrupt church services in Balaka Sunday as a way of fighting the spread of Covid-19.
HRDC Chairperson Gift Trapence said the coalition and other parties obtained a court order restraining government from outright banning of church gatherings in the name of fighting Covid-19.
“We have asked our lawyers to look at the matter and if necessary file a charge of contempt of court against the Inspector General of Police because he is not above the law,” Trapence said.
The order issued by Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda also stops government officials from enforcing the lockdown which President Peter Mutharika announced.
But National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera maintained that religious gatherings have been suspended in the country in the face of Covid-19 and that the police were only enforcing such orders.
“This is something which is happening across the country. Church gatherings have been suspended as a way of fighting the spread of the coronavirus in the country. It is important that we all look at the matter as something which is being done for the greater good of all Malawians, that is to save lives,” Kadadzera said.
He added that the police are using minimum force saying largely, the officers are only reasoning with the church leaders to stop their meetings.
But in separate statements at the height of the debate on whether to suspend religious gatherings outright, Malawi Council of Churches and the Episcope Conference of Malawi advised their members to continue congregating in line with Ministry of Health guidelines.
The guidelines among others say there should be less that 100 people per service who should be sitting at distance of one metre apart.