The country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima has reported President Peter Mutharika and Acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over crimes against humanity allegedly committed between 2018 and 2020.
In his letter to the ICC dated June 11 2020 which his lawyer Chikosa Silungwe yesterday confirmed sending to the ICC, Chilima—who states that he has submitted the report in his personal capacity—cites the crimes as murder under Article 7(1) (a), rape and other forms of sexual violence under Article 7(1), causing severe injury under Article 7(1) (k) and persecution based on political affiliation under Article 7 (1) (h) of the Rome Statute.
Top among the issues are the petrol-bombing of the UTM Party office which housed the Tambala family in Area 24 and rape of women and girls at Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu in Lilongwe by some alleged police officers in Lilongwe.
While Mwapasa has chosen to remain silent on the matter, Mutharika— s p e a k i n g t h r o u g h presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani—argues that Chilima himself in collaboration with Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera started the said political violence in the country. In his three-page
statement, Chilima submits: “There is an Election Campaign Strategy of the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP]— whose president is Arthur Peter Mutharika—by which the civilian population is systematically attacked, principally based on the use of DPP youth cadets, political allies, law enforcement agents [particularly the Malawi Police Service] on instructions of Arthur Peter Mutharika and Duncan Mwapasa.
“These attacks have translated into the systematic commission of crimes against humanity. Until now, those most responsible, those that promoted, encouraged and cooperated in the implementation of these attacks have not been investigated, prosecuted, or punished by the Malawi criminal justice system.”
He claims public officials have consistently denied, trivialised or out rightly ignored existence of crimes committed against the civilian population by DPP youth cadets and police officers as “agents of Mutharika and Mwapasa”.
Chilima, who fell out with Mutharika and DPP in June 2018, wants the prosecutor at ICC to, among others, conduct an analysis
of the information provided, in light of the requirements of the Rome Statute, regarding crimes committed by the DPP youth cadets and their allies but also failure to arrest, investigate, prosecute perpetrators by police officers.
Reads in part the relief he is seeking: “Determine whether there exists reasonable basis to initiate an investigation regarding the commission of crimes against humanity in Malawi when all the facts, as provided in the communication, are considered.”
Chilima says he has resorted to referring the matter to ICC because domestic criminal investigations or prosecutions have failed to act; hence, the ICC should exercise its jurisdiction as required by Article 17 of the Rome Statute.
In a brief interview on Sunday, Mwapasa said he was not aware of the said report and would, therefore, not comment.
But Kalilani said Chilima’s action is very comical of him, saying: “It is a known fact that the political violence Malawi is experiencing was started by himself in collaboration with the MCP president Reverend Lazarus Chakwera and the HRDC [Human Rights Defenders Coalition] in reaction to their loss in May 2019 presidential polls.
“Together, they have been planning, funding and perpetuating the violence across the country on innocent people in the guise of peaceful demonstrations since May 2019. They can’t fool any reasonable court about their involvement. He is probably misleading himself to believing that he can also manipulate the ICC and use it as political tool.”
But in a separate interview, Garton Kamchedzera, professor of law at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi—said normally,the ICC will assess such complaints and check whether the local remedies have failed or not.
He said: “I think the thinking in Chilima is that the people that have the power, the authority to pursue the cases, arrest and bring these matters to court are the police not him as the Vice- President because he can’t say I will arrest or prosecute them.”
In December 2019 , Ombudsman Martha Chizuma and Law Commissioner Rosemary Kanyuka released a report on an investigation conducted as part of Malawi Human Right Commission (MHRC) work which confirmed that some police officers allegedly raped women and girls.
HRCC, a network of 97 human rights organisations, also asked Mutharika to intervene.
The Women L awyer s Association (WLA)) also filed with the High Court in Lilongwe an application for judicial review in the case in which 17 women from Msundwe are accusing police officers of sexual assault.
In the application, WLA accuses Inspector General of Police, Clerk of Parliament and Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development of having failed to fulfil their duties in protecting citizens of the country, in particular the 17 women and girls who were reportedly raped, defiled and sexually assaulted by some police officers on duty in Msundwe, Mpingu and Mbwatalika on the outskirts of Lilongwe City in October 2019.
The ICC’s founding treaty, Rome Statute, grants the ICC jurisdiction over four main offences—crimes against humanity, which are serious violations committed as part of a large-scale attack against any civilian population; genocide; war crimes and crime of aggression.