Governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali has asked President Peter Mutharika to provide assurances of the State’s protection to human rights defenders and critics of the regime.
Munthali said there has been some vestiges of intolerance to criticism by the current regime which did not only portray the picture of a leadership which accorded itself immunity to criticism, but also posed serious threats to the work of human rights defenders, public intellectuals, and the critics of the regime.
He has made the comments following reports that Youth and Society (YAS) executive director Charles Kajoloweka has said he has received a threatening phone call warning him of his impending death
Kajoloweka has since made official complaint about the death threats through Mzuzu Police.
Munthali said the issue of the alleged death threats against human rights defenders and public intellectuals is not new in the recent past.
“We have seen media reports of opposition politicians, journalists, activists and in some cases members of the academia who comment on politics indicating that they are receiving death threats but this has not received the much needed urgent attention from relevant authorities and Police,” said Munthali.
“ In most cases, we have seen government and the Police simply dismissing such serious allegations as simply an attempt by these individuals to buy public sympathy despite the potential threat these allegations have on right to life,” he added.
Munthali said he failure of the Police to institute and in some few cases conclude investigations into these alleged death threats has often given ammunition to the perpetrators of such threats to continue doing so knowing very well that no one will hold them accountable.
“Worse still, the failure of government to strongly assure protection to human rights defenders and public intellectuals as guaranteed by the Constitution has often led to the growing public perception that both government and the police are accomplice to this,” he said.
“It is only through a demonstration of strong political will on the part of government in approaching this matter and also robust thorough and urgent investigations to these alleged death threats by the Police as well as Human Rights Commission can we be able to understand the root causes of this,” said Munthali.
Accoridng to Munthali, while human rights enjoy a high level of recognition and protection in the Constitution, it is important for Malawi to consider enacting a specific law to support and protect human rights defenders in the country which should be in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
“Such a law should oblige the State to investigate and pursue accountability for any violations of the rights of defenders, their families and associate; provide for access to effective remedy for victims; and also mandate research and analysis on threats and attacks against human rights defenders with a view to identifying underlying and causative factors and making recommendations aimed at prevention and at the promotion of an enabling environment.
“Specific laws on human rights defenders could assist not only to provide formal legal protection to their work, but also to give official recognition to the legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, educate law enforcement officers, public officials and the public at large about the importance of defenders’ work and the protection thereof.”
He said matters of death threats are not laughing matters especially as the country approaches the tripartite elections due May 21 2019.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :