The European Union (EU) has demanded “swift and decisive” reaction by competent national authorities on Malawi Police Service (MPS) officers accused of perpetrating sexual violence against women around Msundwe, Mpingu and Mb’watalika trading centres in Lilongwe.
In a local statement issued yesterday, the EU Malawi office said it had noted the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) inquiry report, in particular the serious allegations of sexual violence by police officers and wants to see authorities urgently providing the victims with full support.
The EU has reiterated its strong partnership with the Malawi Government and other stakeholders to end sexual and gender-based violence notably through the Spotlight partnership it has with the United Nations (UN) and said it stands ready to assist.
Reads the statement in part: “The EU continues to stand ready to provide further support through its ongoing governance programmes in Malawi.”
In its report issued last week, 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. The report says the police officers committed the acts while the women fled violent scenes.
Reacting to the report, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said in a statement MPS recorded statements from the alleged 17 victims and case dockets on the complaints were opened.
He said the police also instituted its own inquiry to establish the circumstances leading to the allegations and would take appropriate action in accordance with MHRC recommendations.
The EU statement comes barely two days after Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark
Botomani, who is also the official government spokesperson, stated that the MHRC report was challengeable because currently the commission does not have commissioners to carry out such task.
The minister said government’s view was that any action by MHRC in the absence of the commissioners was subject to scrutiny by State institutions such as the courts.
For some months, MHRC has had no commissioners except for the Ombudsman Martha Chizuma and Law Commissioner Rosemary Kanyuka, who are ex-officio commissioners, following a standing injunction obtained by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) stopping the swearing in of the appointed people.
But reacting to Botomani’s assertions, Chizuma said Section 130 of the Constitution mandates the Ombudsman and the Law Commissioner to operate as commissioners as such.
She said that while efforts were being undertaken to have a full MHRC in place, the two could not keep quiet on serious human rights abuses happening in the country.
In its report, MHRC has recommended that the acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa should institute criminal investigations into the matter. The commission has also recommended that the investigations should target police officers deployed at Mpingu and M’bwatalika.
Police also instituted their own investigations into the alleged Msundwe atrocities which were widely seen as an act of vengeance by police after their colleague was stoned to death during a fracas in the area.
Meanwhile, HRDC is today set to proceed with demonstrations in Lilongwe following police’s decision to ignore a five-day ultimatum the organisation issued for he arrest of officers suspected to have committed the crime.
According to HRDC statement, the demonstrations will start from Lilongwe Community Ground via Lilongwe Procession Road, Paul Kagame Highway, Area 18 Roundabout and end at Area 30 Police Headquarters where they will deliver a petition.
Police indicated on Sunday they will only respond to the MHRC report, effectively ignoring the HRDC ultimatum.