The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has taken over investigations into the sexual violence the police are alleged to have perpetrated against girls and women Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu Trading Centres in the outskirts of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.
The Malawi Police Service has announced that the decision has been made in light of increasing criticism of possible bias if the Police is to investigate its own officers.
The police allegedly went on the rampage in the areas following the brutal murder of their colleague, Suwedi Iman, who was stoned to death by residents during protests.
The National Police spokesman, James Kadadzera, in a press release issued on Tuesday, said the service, the Malawi Human Rights Commission, Women Lawyers Association (WLA) and the United Nations jointly signed Terms of Reference (ToRs) on fresh investigations into alleged rape and defilement of girls and women in Mpingu and M’bwatalika areas by police officers on 8th October 2019.
There have been concerns on why the police were being given the mandate to investigate their own officers in such a sensitive matter.
The leaked report from the Malawi Police Service did not identify suspects and complainants in the matter.
But Kadadzera said the leaked report does not represent the official position of the police service on the matter. The Police reaffirms its commitment to the joint fresh investigations.
“The Service is mindful of the fact that some individuals and groups have questioned the impartiality of the Police during the previous investigations and of course the pending fresh investigations. The concern emanates from the fact that the Service is investigating its own officers,” he said.
Kadadzera said in light of this, a decision has been made to have IPCC to take over leading role in the investigation.
He assured that the police will provide support and cooperation throughout the investigation.
“The involvement of the Service will thus be restricted to the provision of support and cooperation in line with section 130 of the Police Act. This will take away the concern of actual or perceived bias by the Service,” he said.
The Commission establish in response to concerns from the public that there was a lack of independence in the way the police handle cases involving fellow officers.
IPCC was established under part 8 of the Police Act.
Police have been at the centre of criticism after their report titled ‘Investigation report on alleged sexual abuse of women and girls by police officers at M’bwatalika and Mpingu Trading Centres’ heaped the blame on the victims.
The report argues that the victims were coaxed into making the claims by some politically-connected individuals—with a lawyer, a Member of Parliament and local area politicians being the masterminds.
However, the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has backed its earlier report, which implicates the police in the matter.
Local civil rights groups such as the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) have in the past accused the police of shielding its own officers.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :