Mutharika defends human rights record

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has mounted an extraordinary defence of his human rights record, saying his government generally respect rights of its citizens.

In his recorded address to the nation on state television on December, Human Rights Day, a United Nations (UN) sanctioned day of observance, Mutharika said “there are no political prisoners or prisoners of conscious in Malawi jails.”

Mutharika also said there have been no political assassinations in the country since 2004 when he took over power. However, government is yet to form an inquiry on pro-democracy activist Robert Chasowa who is believed to have been murdered by regime thugs this year. He was a student of the University of Malawi.

Mutharika: Human rights must go with responsibility

“Since 2004, there have been no death sentences carried out even on criminals that were convicted of murder,” said Mutharika.

He also claimed that several cases of treason and sedition – which are politically motivated – have been withdrawn unconditionally by his government.

President Mutharika also said he had pardoned the gay couple that had been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

“In fact one of them has married a normal wife; a woman,” he added.

Mutharika said during the recent anti-regime street demonstrations, “no one was harassed or jailed on the count of exercising their right to demonstrate.”

But the President did not mention of the 19 people who were killed by the police when they used lethal force.

Mutharika also said the four lecturers at the University of Malawi, who had been dismissed from their jobs in the fight for academic freedom, were reinstated unconditionally.

The President said his government has since established a high level commission of inquiry to reveal the working conditions at the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, “so as to promote a common definition of academic freedom so that in future we can settle all our disputes in an agreed rules of engagement.”

He said commission of enquiry has been established to enquire into the causes of riots, looting, arson and deaths that occurred on July 20 and 21.

“We have invited the United Nations, the African Union and the Sadc secretariat to send experts to join this commission,” he said.

Adding: “We have instituted the Presidential Contact and Dialogue Group to engage in constructive discussion with the civil society organizations so that we can agree as a nation on a common way forward.”

Mutharika called on all Malawians to be “the advocates and guarantees of human rights.”

The President said human rights must work hand in hand together with responsibilities.

“I want to appeal to all human rights campaigners to recognize that while they are ascertaining their rights, they must also make sure that every citizen of Malawi including the president is guaranteed human rights and therefore we should not suppress the rights of other people while we are advocating the adherence for our own,” said Mutharika.

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) chairperson John Kapito said  during a human rights debate  in Lilongwe that campaigners are “living dangerously “in the country, saying “there is a devil in Malawi and is here to stay.”

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