As Malawi marks 50th anniversary of independence from Briatin, some renowned human rights defenders in Malawi have bemoaned the “perennial” failure that has become of Malawi’s successive governments since independence to internalise and implement several of international human rights instruments which it has all along been party to.
In a joint statement presented at a recent press briefing in Lilongwe organised by Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (Cedep) in partnership with other human rights defenders, the activists argue that despite being party to several major human rights instruments, Malawi has done very little to internalize and implement such instruments.
“Despite being party to several major human rights instruments, Malawi has done very little to ensure that such international human rights standards are ably internalized and implemented. In fact, none of these instruments have been specifically domesticated in Malawi. They cannot, therefore, be invoked by citizens in the domestic courts in Malawi,” reads part of the statement signed by Timothy Mtambo ( CHRR Executive Director), Habiba Osman (Human Rights Lawyer), Gift Trapence (Cedep Executive Director) and Robert Mkwezalamba (Labour activist).
However, the four activists notes that the extent that most of them are inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose most provisions have matured into customary international law norms, some of the provisions may be relied upon in domestic courts.
“In fact, according to the case of Chakufwa Tom Chihana-vs-The Republic, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has a force of law in Malawi. All its provisions may actually be invoked in domestic courts in Malawi,” reads the statement.
Timothy Mtambo, Gift Trapence, Habiba Osman and Robert Mkwezalamba further observe that civil and political rights under the new constitution of Malawi adopted on 18th May 1995 are not given the same level of protection as civil and political rights.
“While acknowledging that economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights and the right to development are recognized as universal, indivisible and mutually reinforcing rights of all human beings, without distinction, some quarters have contended that socio-economic rights are not given the same level of protection as civil and political rights under the new Constitution of Malawi adopted on 18th May 1995, which has a somewhat comprehensive Bill of Rights. In our view, the Bill of Rights substantially reflects the normative framework set by these instruments” reads the statement.
The rights defenders also appeal to all Malawians including the new government to seize the 50th anniversary celebration by amongst other things reflecting on how as a country we have conformed to the various international human rights instruments which we are party to.
“To what extent has Malawi–over the years–conformed to the various international human rights instruments it has ratified? Is Malawi progressing or retrogressing in as far as promotion and protection of human rights for all is concerned?”
Malawi is party to many major human rights instruments at global, regional and sub-regional levels. They include: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, International Covenant on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination Against Women, African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. As regards to human rights, Malawi has a liberal constitution.
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