Malawi civil society coalition demands justice

A coalition of 18 trade Unions, 11 national Christian councils, 15 umbrella NGO Bodies as well as civil society groups, think thanks and human rights organisations from Malawi and across southern Africa have called on the Malawian President, Bingu wa Mutharika, to put an immediate stop to the ongoing harassment and intimidation being meted out to Malawian citizens – and take action to ensure that those responsible for the deaths of 19 people during anti-government protests.

The coalition believes that recent events in Malawi indicate that the country is fast sliding towards undemocratic rule, where impunity and terror are now firmly entrenched. The coalition statement claims that while the 20th of July is a day that shall live in infamy because of the 19 people who were gunned down for simply exercising their right to freely express themselves – the tragedy was shocking but not surprising.

According to a joint News Alert issued by the coalition, President Mutharika continues to show that he would stop at nothing to hang onto power and there is clear evidence that Mutharika is a dictator – and that he is determined to proceed in his lone journey down a path of poor governance and rampant corruption, suppression of opposition, intimidation and threats to human rights defenders and utter disdain for constructive criticism.

Mutharika: Take action

While the second round of national protests has now been called off – in the hope that genuine dialogue might be possible and in the fear that more innocent Malawians would die – the coalition argues that if Mutharika is not stopped, more bloodshed will be seen in Malawi.

As a result, the signatories to the alert, call upon the Government of Malawi to:

Immediately publicise the autopsy report into the 19 innocent people who lost their lives on 20 July 2011

Begin the process of exhuming the bodies if there is no autopsy report

Appoint an independent pathologist – one who satisfies a joint oversight committee in parliament

Open a Coroner’s Inquest to establish the facts leading up to the unnecessary loss of life on 20 July and to make strong recommendations for justice, peace and reconciliation must be made so that impunity does not go unpunished

Hold the Inquest in an open court where witnesses are encouraged to come forward and testify and are guaranteed protection

Ensure that the ruling party’s militia known as the ‘Cadets’ desists from intimidating and harassing civic leaders, human rights defenders and academics.

The coalition also called on the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to undertake a promotional visit to Malawi to investigate human rights abuses and threats to human rights defenders in that country.

And the various groups also asked people across the region and further afield to support their call to action by raising these issues with whichever government or organisation has the ability to influence – and rein in – the Mutharika regime.–OSISA

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