The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) have issued separate statements condemning increased threats and intimidation against human rights defenders and activists in Malawi.
They two international bodies have called for the protection and civil society actors in the country and that police should ensure that the attacks and death threats are thoroughly investigated.
Their reaction comes in the wake of reports that suspected regime thugs attacked the office of Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) in Lilongwe; severely beat up a security guard before attempting to petrol-bomb the premises.
Mzuzu-based Youth and Society executive director Charles Kajoloweka has also reported to police about alleged death threats he received for his activism role but there has been no protection measures put in place for
In Zomba, in southern Malawi, thugs went to the house of one human rights defender last week demanding to see him in a threatening manner.
The UN said it is concerned about an increasing number of threats and intimidation against human rights defenders and activists in Malawi, including against women, ahead of next year’s general election.
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell said several members of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition have also reportedly been intimidated and threatened over the past few weeks.
“We are concerned about an emerging pattern of threats and violence against women Members of Parliament and electoral candidates. One female MP’s car [Agness Nyalonje] was torched in Mangochi in the south of the country in August, while another was blocked from entering parliament in April and faced further intimidation and threats over the past two months.
“We urge the authorities to ensure that attacks and threats against human rights defenders are thoroughly investigated and that the crucial work carried out by civil society actors is protected, in line with the Government’s international human rights obligations. It is particularly important in a pre-electoral context that an enabling environment is created for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” Throssell said
In a separate statement made available to Nyasa Times, SAHRDN has demanded that the Malawian Police and relevant government authorities urgently and openly investigate the violence, assault and threats against the staff of (CHRR) and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Chairperson of SAHRDN Arnold Tsunga who is also Africa Director at the International Commission of Jurists said they strongly condemns the persecution of staff of the CHRR.
“Such attacks besides being unlawful also violate the rights to life, security and liberties of every person which are fundamentally guaranteed by the Constitution of Malawi, as well as international human rights law,” reads the statement.
The SAHRDN reminds the Malawi authorities of the duty they have to protect HRDS and calls on the police and relevant authorities to take all measures to protect activists to ensure that such violent attacks, threats and violations of rights and liberties of human rights defenders and government critics in the country will not recur.
Commentators say Malawi can ill-afford violence as it is a threat to democracy and economic growth as no investor would want to put their money where there is instability.
They say rising cases of political violence and intimidation of human rights activists ahead of May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections should be cause for concern.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :