Malawians can directly access African Court: CHRR faults govt on right to demo

One of Malawi’s leading human rights and governance organisation Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has said Malawians can directly access the African Court on Human and Peoples rights on various human rights violations following Malawi’s deposition of the Declaration of the African Court Protocol.

CHRR’s Munthali: Barriers to full enjoyment of right to demonstration must be addressed once and for all

CHRR’s Munthali: Barriers to full enjoyment of right to demonstration must be addressed once and for all

Until recently, only 7 member states of the African Union have deposited the Declaration of the African Court Protocol requirement allowing individuals and NGOs with observer status before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to directly access the African Court with only 28 member states to have ratified the said protocol. These include Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mali, Tanzania, Ghana, Rwanda and Ivory Coast.

CHRR is the only NGO in Malawi with the observer status before the Commission.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 56th Session of African Commission on human and people’s rights currently underway in Banjul Gambia, CHRR Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that by virtue of Malawi’s deposition , Individuals and NGOs with observer status before the African Commission on Human and Peoples rights can directly access the Court after exhausting the domestic avenues.

“Apart from Malawi’s historic submission of its maiden report before the Commission, Malawi has made some progress in its implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights,” Munthali said in an interview with Nyasa Times.

“Malawi is one of the few member states of African Union to have deposited the declaration of the Protocol on African Court requirement under Article 34(2), (6), and (7) read together with Article 5 of the Protocol allowing individuals and NGOs with observer status before the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to directly access the African Court by bringing claims on violation of human rights spelled in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and other human rights instruments after exhausting all domestic legal remedies,” said Munthali in their joint submission with Cedep to the 56th session of the African Commisison on Human and Peoples Rights.

CHRR also applauded Malawi’s government’s respect for freedom of assembly and right to demonstration but warned on the need for government to address the existing grey areas which impinge on the citizen’s full enjoyment of this fundamental right.

“It is also noteworthy to commend the Malawi government that after the brutal developments that characterized the 2011 national demonstrations leading to 20 unarmed peaceful protesters killed and many injured, the CSOs in Malawi and the citizens have managed to mobilise at least 4 successful and peaceful demonstrations, 2 in 2013 against Cashgate and recently against poor state of governance and political abuse of HIV/AIDS related funds at NAC and those against Xenophobia. We commend the professional conduct of Malawi Police”, said Munthali.

However, CHRR noted that while there has been progress over the recent years on Malawi’s commitment to respect of freedom of assembly and right to demonstration, the “perennial tendency by government to abuse the state media particularly MBC in advancing propaganda against Civil Society leaders involved in the coordination of demonstrations which are perceived to be critical of the government of the day remained a big setback in as far as Malawi’s protection and promotion of these fundamental rights”

Added Munthali: “It is a fact that despite all the mentioned demonstrations after July 20, 2011 being peaceful, they were all, with the exception of the recent one on Xenophobia, characterized by a high-level of propaganda by government against human rights defenders who were leading patriotic Malawians in these protests.

“ This is regrettable and must be condemned in the strongest terms as it does not only impinge on the full enjoyment of this fundamental right but also renders such activists vulnerable to various forms of danger.”

Munthali implored the Malawi government to go beyond the review of the Communications Act as a step towards enhancing the independence of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation”from any political influence in its operations to effectively serve the general public as per domestic and international law.”

The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu told the Commission that the Communications Act was being reviewed to ensure MBC and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) independence.

“The Communications Act, the law that establishes the two institutions is being reviewed particularly to strengthen the impartiality and independence of the two institutions. The reforms proposes the involvement of stakeholders in the appointment of members to the Boards of the two bodies. The amendment Bill will be presented to Parliament this year,” said Tembenu.

Tembenu added that the CSOs in Malawi were freely allowed to exercise their right to demonstration and freedom of assembly without any government interference.

Malawi appeared before the 56th session of African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights for the review of its initial report for the first time in a historic fashion – a gesture that has been highly commended by African Commission and CSOs including IPAs, CHREA, CHRR and Cedep as a positive development towards Malawi’s commitment to its international obligations. T

The Minister of Justice Tembenu led a high profiled Malawi delegation which included government officials, national human rights institution and CSOs.

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