Malawi snubs UN on human rights report

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration has refused to submit a written report on its human rights record to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee.

According to a statement form Geneva obtained by Nyasa Times, the Committee will review its record with a government delegation travelling from Malawi headed by the Attorney General.

The statement said in the absence of a state report, the Committee will consider information submitted by non-governmental organizations including the Centre of Development of People (CEDEP), the Centre of Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

Their report on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights documents Malawi’s grave and deteriorating human rights situation.

Mutharika: Named most serious rights violator

“The current human rights situation in Malawi is extremely serious and possibly deteriorating,” reads the shadow report.

According to the groups, the most serious rights violator in Malawi is President Mutharika.

“His administration acknowledges, encourages and organises the intimidation and unlawful killing of individuals or groups that challenge the regime,” the NGO’s report say.

Mutharika is accused of inciting  his followers to take to the streets with arms, allowed the police to beat and kill members of the opposition, crushed media dissent, and broken up peaceful assemblies with deadly force.

“ President Mutharika’s regime ignores the authority of the national courts system, incites prejudice and hatred of vulnerable minorities including lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and relegates women to the status of second-class citizens,” the NGO reported to UN.

The shadow report highlights human rights violations committed by the Mutharika government.

They document the  July 20 nationwide  anti-government demonstrations  when security forces killed about 19 unarmed individuals.

“There have been complaints of torture in numerous police stations across Malawi. While NGOs and lawyers periodically access and monitor detention facilities, they are powerless to influence the treatment of the individuals incarcerated,” the report further reads.

The NGO’s told UN that Mutharika administration attempts to distract attention from its failure to respect the rule of law by blaming vulnerable groups, including homosexuals.

UN was also told that “there is a sustained attack on press freedom in Malawi.”

Recently, there have been death threats issued to journalists in the private media.

The NGO reported that during the July 20 demonstrations  , a total of 22  journalists were beaten and assaulted by the Malawi Police Service.

Two journalists, including Nyasa Times bureau chief for northern region Collins Mtika, were arrested and spent several days in custody. Most journalists had their cameras confiscated, broken and their writing materials thrown away. One photo-journalist was hospitalised for seven days because of the serious head injuries he suffered as a result, it was reported.

The NGO shadow report offers 18  recommendations for actions that should be taken to bring the State of Malawi in compliance with its treaty obligations.

The recommendations include the right to peaceful assembly, the right to fair trial, the right to free speech, the need to decriminalize homosexuality, the need to equalize rights for men and women, and the need to conduct immediate and impartial investigations into the July 20 attacks on civilians and journalists that hold state violators accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

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