The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has applauded the Malawi Government for delivering its first-ever presentation at the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
In his presentation, Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo said Malawi is a firm believer in multilateralism and as a member of the Human Rights Council and therefore shall uphold and protect fundamental international human rights, values and system.
Ironically, the presentation of the statement came barely a day after the National Advocacy Platform (NAP) – a grouping of human rights organizations in Malawi – raised a red flag on the country’s scorecard on respect and protection of human and people’s rights.
However, Mvalo stated that as members of the global community, Malawians remains united in common values as human beings endowed with rights and responsibilities by our creator.
“All nations large and small, powerful and not so powerful should enjoy equal treatment as we shape the United Nations that we want,” he said.
But Mvalo stated that Covid-19 pandemic has exposed vulnerable groups of Malawians. He said the government is assessing the effects of Covid-19 pandemic on the health, education, economy and the labour market in Malawi to identify reforms that government could undertake to stimulate the economy and protect livelihoods.
“Several policy recommendations including: the need to enhance interventions towards social protection programmes and other fiscal bailouts targeting workers and small-scale businesses in the informal economy, cash transfers, providing support to people with underlying health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, and implementing labour market reforms have been proposed,” said the minister.
In reaction, the CHRR executive director Michael Kaiyatsa said the statement alone is a huge indication of government’s readiness and commitment to play its rightful role at the global stage and contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights as a member of the Council.
Kaiyatsa said as a human rights organization, we have followed the Minister’s statement with keen interest and are delighted that a number of pertinent issues were highlighted in the statement.
“Firstly, we are glad that the minister talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the enjoyment of civil, political, social and economic rights in the country and what government is doing or planning to do to mitigate these impacts, particularly among vulnerable groups. Secondly, we are pleased that the minister informed the Council that attacks on persons with albinism have resurfaced in Malawi.
“This admission is an indication of government’s concern and, perhaps, commitment to deal with this reemerging threat. Thirdly, we are delighted that the minister has made a commitment before the Council to clear the backlog of reports to treaty monitoring bodies by the end of the year,” he said.
Kaiyatsa added that CHRR is concerned that the government decided not to talk about attacks on people accused of witchcraft, which have claimed over 64 lives in the last 2 years alone, 18 of which have occurred under the watch of the current government.
He said this omission is an indication that either government is embarrassed to talk about this issue at international level or is not treating this issue as a priority.
“Either way, this is sad considering that government has an obligation to put a stop to these attacks and ensure that everyone, including the elderly and other people who are often accused of witchcraft, enjoy the right to life, the right to personal security and the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“In relation to the above, we are also sad to note that government appears to be reneging on its commitment to promote universal human rights. By definition, human rights apply to everyone, regardless of one’s nationality, ethnic origin, sex, color, religion, language, or any other status,” said the head of CHRR .
Kaiyatsa further stated that the government’s reference in the statement to words like “imperialism or colonialism” and its call for “mutual respect even as we may hold different views on some issues” is a worrying sign that government may not be committed to promoting rights of certain groups, such as the LGBT+ community.
He singled out the LGBT+ community because during the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held on 3 November 2020, the government noted all recommendations on LGBT+ issues.
“At the UN, the word ‘Noted’ is used diplomatically to mean, ‘Rejected’. During the review, Hon. Mvalo avoided any question on the issue of LGBT+ rights by claiming that the Malawi Human Rights Commission ‘has been asked to carry out an inquiry on the matter’. Yet the purported inquiry is not appearing anywhere in the Commission’s plans for this year. Neither has government given the Commission any funding to conduct this inquiry.
“In his statement before the Council today, Hon. Mvalo said that the recommendations that Malawi accepted during the UPR ‘represent what we as a nation believe in and are eager to promote to shape our human rights future.’ This suggests that Malawi does not believe in and is not ‘eager’ to promote LGBT+ and all the other rights recommendations that were ‘noted’,” he said.
Kaiyatsa reminded the Malawi government that States are obligated under International human rights law to promote and protect the human rights of all persons without discrimination and that to be an effective member of the Council, Malawi must commit to protecting the rights of everyone, including minority groups like people accused of witchcraft, LGBT+ persons, sex workers, women and girls who procure abortion and others.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :