Malawi Law Society (MLS) has said it does not support the arrest of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) members, MacDonald Sembereka and Gift Trapence, on Sunday, following a directive by President Peter Mutharika and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) senior officials.
In a statement released yesterday and signed by MLS President Burton Mhango and Secretary Martha Kaukonde, the lawyers’ body said its earlier sentiments were made to confirm that Malawi Police Service (MPS) has the power under section 124 of the Penal Code to arrest any person who incites another to commit an offence and were never in support of the present arrests.
“The correct position of the Law Society on the subject matter is as expressed in the present statement and in its statements of 14th May 2019, 12th July 2019, 3rd August 2019, 20th October 2019 and 20th February and does not defend arbitrary arrests. The Law Society reiterates the call for the MPS to act professionally and independent of the interference of any person as required by the law,” the statement reads.
MLS condemned Mutharika and DPP for interfering in the operations of the law enforcers, saying the sentiments echoed during the DPP-United Democratic Front (UDF) rally at Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre, which was followed by the duo’s arrest, compromises police independence.
“The Law Society, therefore, unreservedly condemns this political interference in the operations of the Malawi Police and calls upon the Malawi Police to immediately release the two and to always act independently and professionally,” the statement says.
MLS has since reiterated its call on all stakeholders to respect the Constitutional Court judgement delivered on February 3 in which it nullified the May 21 2019 presidential polls results.
Led by Justice Healey Potani, the court asked Parliament to debate and pass enabling laws for implementation of the 50 percent-plus-one system of determining the presidential election winner and the Public Appointments Committee of parliament was asked to assess Malawi Electoral Commission commissioners’ competence.