The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Brief Investigations Report on allegations of prisoners dying of hunger at Maula Prison in Lilongwe has found that despite inmates spending three days without food no deaths were recorded as a result of the food shortage.
However, the report indicates the only registered death was of a 60-year-old prisoner, Buziel Kapalamula, who was refusing medication and was put on Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) at least a week before the allegations of the death of prisoners due to hunger were made.
“There was indeed a challenge of the shortage of food at the facility due to low supplies of maize. However, the stores of the facility had bags of beans.
“The prison authorities informed the Commission’s investigators that this too was running low and that if it was not re-stocked within the week the facility would completely run out of food,” reads the report.
But inmates and prison authorities informed MHRC investigators the facility had no food supplies (maize) for three days- 21st, 22nd and 23rd December, 2013.
The 2, 223 inmates also confirmed to have indeed spent three days without food.
”On these three days, they reported that they were actually surviving on food / meals brought to them by relatives or well-wishers such as the Catholic Women’s Organisation of the Maula Deanery and the faithful from the Anglican Community,” reads the report signed by MHRC Deputy Director of Economic, Social, and Cultural, Harry Migochi.
The commission also found that food supplies’ shortages had reportedly been exacerbated by lack of fuel for the Malawi Prison Service vehicles which are used to ferry firewood for cooking and food stuffs due to erratic funding to the Prison and particularly due to the fact that the service did not receive funding for December.
Similarly, due to lack of fuel the African Bible College (ABC) Clinic had been ferrying and treating prisoners (sick inmates) for two days.
“The food shortage was also attributed to delays in paying the suppliers of foodstuffs, particularly maize. As such, the suppliers are reportedly no longer willing to be supplying the facility without being paid,” it says.
Meanwhile, according to the report, prison authorities have reportedly engaged ADMARC in negotiations to supply them with maize.
Analyzing the situation, MHRC says government has primary responsibility to ensure that it feeds the prisoners under its custody and if not fed or given treatment when they are sick, one would simply conclude that this is in a way some form of torture, cruelty and inhuman treatment to inmates.
“The government by erratically funding the prison facilities is failing in its primary obligation to promote and protect the prisoners’ rights to health and life. It should be appreciated that such inconsistent and erratic funding contributes greatly to suppliers not being paid and the facility running short of foodstuff.
“The law as reflected in the Prison Regulations is not a mere aspiration which has to be progressively attained, nor is it the ideal that the law represents. It is in fact the minimum requirement. No one should be allowed to disobey the law merely on the ground that he or she does not have sufficient resources to enable them obey the law and fulfill their obligations under the law,” the report reads in part.
On recommendations, MHRC calls on government to immediately come to the rescue of the situation by timely and adequately funding the Prison Service Department before the situation deteriorates to the point of letting well-wishers and relatives feeding the prisoners and private institutions like the ABC ferrying and medically treating the prisoners instead of government taking it as its primary responsibility.
It also observes that the Constitution of Malawi safeguards the fundamental right of the right to human dignity, as a non-derogable right.
“It cannot be taken away even where prisoners are concerned. Section 42 guarantees that prisoners will be confined in conditions that respect their human dignity. The food shortage situation where prisoners go without food for over three days is a critical human rights issue,” the commission says.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :