Justice delayed is Justice denied – it is a vital and long-held tenet of the legal system. Human rights campaigners have said the delay on cases of Malawi police officers who were responsible for the 20 deaths and several injuries during July 20, 2011 mass demonstrations calling for an end to president Bingu wa Mutharika’s increasingly repressive and authoritarian policies is a. a “worrying sign.”
The Commission of Inquiry which investigated the killings recommended that the government must ensure that ‘police officers who were responsible for the deaths and injuries are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted where unlawful conduct is established’. Victims should also be compensated.
But there has been delayed delivery of justice on the matter and mostly shielding of culprits attracting criticism from Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo, saying government has shown no respect to the sanctity of human life.
In the July 2o killings prosecutions, nine police officers, including Ian Kanyama, son of the current police Inspector General Paul Kanyama, were interdicted, subsequently arrested and charged with various crimes, including murder.
The other officers are sub-inspector Kamwala of Lumbadzi Police Station, sergeant Makokezi of B Company, constable Lobo of Kawale Police Station, Lemekezo Mikuti, Kelvin Nyirenda, Benedicto Dzombe, Paul Mussa, Mahomed Kulusinje all from Ndirande Police Station.
The Malawi Human Rights Commission, in its recent state of human rights report, warned that delayed justice or the tragic events of July 20th 2011 was reflecting negatively on the State’s willingness to uphold human rights and rule of law.
Apart from prosecution, the Commission recommended for changes to the police service.
It called on the government to ‘make sure that the police is equipped with sufficient non-lethal weapons and appropriate equipment for effective control of riots’ and that more officers are recruited.
And to develop a comprehensive policy and operational guidelines in connection with crowd control and, specifically, on the use of firearms – including better training, which should also cover issues of human rights, negotiation skills and basic first aid skills.