Malawi police used live bullets on 20/7 demo – MHRC inquiry

By Dennis Chirwa, Nyasa Times

Preliminary findings by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) have revealed that Malawi Police Service used live bullets on a largely peaceful  July 20  demonstrations when 19 people were killed and many more suffered severe injuries.

Malawians were protesting against the rising cost of fuel, increasing political repression and deteriorating economic conditions in the country.

MHRC findings are contrary to what the law enforcers claimed earlier on that no live bullet was used.

Addressing journalists  in the capital Lilongwe, the commission through Sophie Kalinde said only one person in Mzuzu died due to suffocation from tear gas.

Malawi Police brutarity during demo

Kalinde further said the injunction which was obtained at the 11th hour by Chiza Mbekeyani, now in self-exile in Tanzania, before the protests angered many people.

“A day before the protests ruling DPP cars were paraded in Blantyre wielding machete’s threatening to deal with all who were to partake in the protests ignited anger as wel,”Kalinde added.

She then said the use of lethal force  was a gross human rights violation and should not be condoned in a democratic society like Malawi.

“According to the findings 8 people were killed in Mzuzu by police’s use of live bullets and one died due to suffocation after he inhaled smoke from a tear gas canister,” Kalinde said.

MHRC condemns the killings and heavy-handedness of the Mutharika government’s response to the riots that paralyzed nearly the entire country especially on the 20th and 21st of July 2011. They also condemn the beatings and all manner of torture and inhuman treatment that civil society leaders, journalists and innocent civilians suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of the Malawian police.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) senior Africa researcher  Tiseke Kasambala,  says those found responsible for using excessive force “should be held to account.”

HRC urged the police to use restraint during future protests.

Civil rights groups have vowed to stage another protest on 17th August despite President Bingu wa Mutharika’s plea that protests should not take place.

The protests will this time be a 48 hour peaceful vigil.

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