Two of Malawi’s leading human rights and governance NGO groups Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (Cedep) have described Malawi government’s report before the United Nations (UN) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland as general and vague.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu, who is leading the delegation, presented the report detailing progress made in areas of human rights since the previous review in 2010.
Tembenu in his report he highlighted the passage of some laws like the protection of children and the enactment of four key legislations on protection of women, wills inheritance, trafficking, marriage, divorce and family relations Act as some of the notable progress registered by government.
However, reacting to the statement CHRR and Cedep —who are also attending the meeting – expressed disappointment on the way the Minister addressed the issue of threats against human rights defenders and journalists, saying it is untrue that rights defenders and journalists have never received threats or being harassed.
“It’s an open secret that human rights defenders and the media were highly harassed between 2011 and 2012 by the same government and these issues were documented and reported to UN. Memories are still afresh when we saw houses and offices of human rights defenders being petrol-bombed and human rights defenders receiving threats from high authorities,” a joint response from the two organisations explains.
The two organisations also stated that government’s statement lacked clear explanation on the reasons behind the delays in state’s prosecution and investigations into the murders of student Robert Chasowa and mysterious death of Kalonga Stambuli.
“What is the status of Dr Kalonga Stambuli Commission of Inquiry report? Why are there still delays in prosecution and investigations into murders of student activist Robert Chasowa and the mysterious death of Kalonga Stambuli?
“What is the progress on the measures taken by the state to investigate and bring to book persons who were responsible for arbitrary arrests, death threats and arson of offices and homes of human rights and political activists in Malawi? What about the July 20 brutal killings? These are issues that we all expected the government to be honest about and explain the concrete steps being taken.” wondered the rights groups
The rights group said the state report was also wanting in providing clear steps on how government would address the problem of under-funding of human rights institutions like Malawi Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman, Law Commission and the Legal Aid Bureau.
The CSOs added that most of government’s responses were “general and vague” especially on issues iof Lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, and intersex, prison conditions, death penalty and also on threats against human rights defenders and journalists.
CHRR and Cedep said such international human rights platforms are not air brushing platforms for government but rather a forum meant to strengthen human rights situation of citizens.
“Government are expected to be honest in their presentation of issues and responses so that relevant and appropriate recommendations and strategies are put forward to them in order to improve human rights conditions of their people” argued Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence, CHRR and Cedep directors respectively.
However, the two CSOs commended Malawi government for submitting its report.
They said on a positive note, Malawi has made progress in the areas of child rights and women rights, especially in putting in place the legal framework to protect their rights andr called for effective implementation.
However, the two groups appealed for government’s need to consider the diverse views on the newly passed marriage legislation as part of its short or medium term plans.
“While commending the Malawi government for recently adopting the Marriage, divorce and family relations legislation after years of waiting for its passage, there are a few areas that do not augur well with the international human rights norms which Malawi is party to,” said the two groups.
They recommended to Malawi government to consider reviewing such law in the short or medium term in order to ensure that such grey areas are amended in the best interest of human rights for all” argue the rights group.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :