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United Nations quizzes Malawi on torture

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The death of Lule Buleya through torture, overcrowding in prisons, the treatment of sexual minorities, spiralling rape and assault cases and the discovery of a mass grave in Mzimba District were among burning issues that dominated Malawi’s appearance at the United Nations (UN) Committee Against Torture meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, last week.

At the meeting, the UN reviewed Malawi’s initial report under the Convention against Torture.

Among other things, vice chairperson and co-rapporteur for Malawi Anna Racu observed that there were persistent legislative gaps which impacted negatively on the overall prevention of torture in Malawi and that the Penal Code lacked comprehensive provisions addressing torture.

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“Malawi had not yet criminalised torture as a separate offence under domestic law, which meant acts amounting to torture can only be prosecuted as other ordinary criminal offenses.

“Malawi should ensure that the absolute prohibition of torture is non-derogable and that acts amounting to torture are not subject to any statute of limitations,” Racu said.

According to Racu, this means that acts amounting to torture can only be prosecuted as other ordinary criminal offenses.

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Deputy Permanent Representative and Charge D’affaires at the Permanent Mission of Malawi to the UN Office in Geneva, Pacharo Kayira, told the committee that although Malawi’s statute books do not contain a definition of torture as provided under the convention, criminal offences which are related to torture can be found in legislation such as the Penal Code, the Trafficking in Persons Act and the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

“Malawi is seriously considering the issue and the Law Commission would consider whether the definition of torture should be placed in the Penal Code.

“When this is approved by the Cabinet, the necessary legislation would be drafted and the bill would then be tabled before Parliament,” Kayira said.

Steven Kayuni, who is the Director of Public Prosecutions and led the delegation, reiterated the State’s commitment to actualise the convention.

Kayuni said torture in any form should not be permitted.

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