Attorney General Dr Chikosa Silungwe has said government will comply with the High Court determination that 18 Msudwe women who were victims of sexual violence and rape in Lilongwe should be compensated for the heinous acts allegedly suffered at the hands of Malawi Police officers.
Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda in a ruling championed by Women Lawyers Association also ordered that there should be arrest and prosecution of the 17 implicated law enforcers within 30 days.
“We will simply comply, and make sure that the Inspector General of Police also complies with the determination,” said Attorney General.
Determined Justice Nyirenda: “I have considered the respective submissions. In the premises, Relief No. 18 [compensation] is granted. In this regard, I direct that the issue of assessment of compensation payable to all the applicants be dealt with by the registrar. This has to be done within 21 days of the date hereof.”
Judge Nyirenda blames the former Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa for failing to conduct prompt, proper effective and professional investigations into the complaints of rape and sexual assault and further blaming that office for failing to arrest the officers.
During the 2019 post-election unrest, demonstrators set up roadblocks in the capital, which led to the deployment of the police. In the pandemonium that followed, a police officer Usumani Imedi was killed in Msundwe. Security officers stormed the area the following day, spraying teargas and attacking the public.
The NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) documented accounts from women and self-boarding girl students who said they had been sexually assaulted by police officers.
The alleged assaults were also outlined in a 62-page report released December 18, 2019 by Malawi’s Ombudsman Martha Chizuma and Law Commissioner Rosemary Kanyuka.
Chizuma said the investigation, carried out under Malawi’s Human Rights Commission (MHRC), uncovered evidence of the rapes.
“We found out that a total of 17 women were sexually violated,” Chizuma said. “Five of them were under 18. One of the five girls was actually defiled. Eight women were raped. The rest, police found them doing their menses so were just violently beaten.”
Chizuma said the alleged police assaults appeared to be in revenge for the stoning death of a fellow police officer by election protesters. The report identified suspected officers who were posted to the areas where the assaults occurred.
Commenting on the ruling by Justice Nyirenda on her social media page, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma, said: “The High Court judgement ordering for the women and girls raped and defiled by ‘police’ last October is to me one of the greatest rebuke to sexual harassment against women and impunity by some public officers in Malawi.
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