Women Lawyers Association (WLA) of Malawi says it is taking legal action against the Malawi Police Service over its officers who allegedly raped women in and around Msundwe area along the Lilongwe-Mchinji Road in October last year.
The association’s president Tadala Chinkwezule says the women lawyers have been compelled to take the legal action because “the police has clearly abdicated its responsibility and constitutional duty”.
In a letter addressed to the acting police Inspector General Duncan Mwapasa, Chinkwezule says the inaction by the police is wrong, illegal and unlawful and deprives the concerned women and girls of their right to access justice.
But police spokesperson James Kadadzera said in an interview the office of the acting Inspector General is yet to receive the letter.
“Until the office receives the letter, we will not comment,” said Kadadzera.
Police say they have launched a criminal investigation into the rape allegations against some of its officers following a Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) report.
The police are yet to make public its own commission of inquiry report prompting Chimkwezule to demand the formation of a police complaints commission to handle all complaints against the police as the law enforcers cannot investigate themselves.
MHRC investigation established that some police officers raped and sexually abused 17 women on October 9 last year at Mpingu and M’bwatalika trading centres around Msundwe in Lilongwe.
In its report, MHRC said it established that police officers raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually-assaulted three under-18 girls during their October 8 2019 operation around the area.
Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani, dismissed the report from the tax funded rights commission it on the basis that MHRC had no commissioners in place.
However, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma, an MHRC ex-offio commissioner, dismissed the minister’s assertions, arguing that Section 130 of the Constitution mandates her office and the Law Commissioner to operate as commissioners in the absence of a full commission.
The European Union on December 26 also demanded “swift and decisive” reaction from authorities on police officers accused of perpetrating sexual violence in the affected area.