Calls for disciplinary action on Malawi Police Service (MPS) officers alleged to have sexually molested women in Lilongwe continue pouring in with the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) now asking President Peter Mutharika to intervene.
The committee, a network of 97 human rights organisations, wants Mutharika to use his powers as the incident has painted a bad image of the country to the extent of being likened to a war-tone nation.
The human rights body is calling on the President to order immediate arrests of all officers who were on the assignment on the day and were involved in the offence.
HRCC also wants Mutharika to order for appropriate compensation to the victims and task the acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa to disclose officers who have brought the nation into disrepute.
The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) issued an inquiry report last week, which said police officers raped 13 women, defiled a girl and sexually assaulted three under-18 girls during their October 8 2019 operation around the area.
In its report, MHRC said the police officers committed the crimes when the unarmed and defenceless women were fleeing the violent scenes in Msundwe, Mpingu, Kadziyo and M’bwatalika, in the outskirts of Lilongwe City.
And HRCC said yesterday, what seemed like a mere “fake allegation has finally been confirmed by MHRC, as such the findings should not only be a concern to the citizens but also as a matter of priority to Mutharika and his Cabinet ministers”.
“We are aware that other organisations and the police are also carrying their own investigations but from the evidence so far presented… a case has been proven. Our men in uniform indeed preyed on their subjects!
“This is a saddest development in the history of our nation as the conduct and acts by the alleged police officers are not only heinous but barbaric, cruel and inhuman,” reads the statement, in part, signed by HRCC board chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba.
The human rights body said while commissions of inquiry reports have previously remained unattended to and were gathering dust in the process, the present incident has painted a bad image of government.
“You have been ridiculed and let down by the men and women you trusted in uniform. Action, therefore, must be taken forthwith to ensure that the police is lid of people with such characters while sending a strong message to further would be perpetrators that they have no space in Malawi, in particular in the service,” says HRCC.
The body says while it was a serious legal anomaly for MHRC not to have commissioners, it also found a lame excuse for government to hide under their absence as reason for not further interrogating or acting on the commission’s findings.
“For once, we fail to understand why government can assemble over 10 lawyers in the current election challenge case, but fail to challenge an injunction obtained by one entity which needs to be dissolved due to lapse of time and want of prosecution.
“Such lapses, we regret, have the effect of painting our reports to the UN [United Nations] negatively over lack of commitment to ensure that institutions of governance like the Human Rights Commission is not being accorded an enabling environment to operate freely,” observes HRCC.
But reacting to the HRCC statement, Mutharika’s spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani said the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) shall attend to the communication from HRCC after the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“Suffice to say that the issue is, and should not be personalised to the President. It is a government issue and let it be treated as such,” he said.
HRCC’s call comes barely 24 hours after the European Union (EU) mission in the country also called for a “swift and decisive” reaction on the incident by competent national authorities.