Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo says Malawi will start guiding countries with serious human rights violations on how to imporove their records.
The minister told a media briefing in Lilongwe on Monday that the country is ready to start offering resolutions on how member States can improve human rights records in their countries in its new role as United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) member.
Mvalo said Malawi’s election to the council is a testimony that the country has acted on many of the 199 recommendations it received from the last session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held in 2015 in Geneva.
Said the minister: “We will gain a lot of steam by being a member of the council. We will be able to sponsor resolutions in the council. It will be one of the States monitoring and assessing human rights violations. We think this will put us on the map.”
Mvalo explained that through the role, Malawi will be expected to participate and contribute to the council in initiating resolutions in collaboration with other countries and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as enhancing an exchange of information on good practices and lessons learned, among others.
Meanwhile, civil society organisations (CSOs), including Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) have said government needs to put its house in order and ensure the country is leading by example in improving and upholding human rights.
CHRR acting executive director Michael Kaiyatsa said government should live up to the recommendations which the 2015 UPR session made for the country.
Among others, the Geneva summit recommended that Malawi should enact the Access to Information Act (ATIA), Gender Equality Act (GEA) and that it should improve prison conditions. It also recommended that Malawi Government should ensure security and safety of journalists and human rights activists.
While commending the government for meeting the ATIA and GEA requirements, Kaiyatsa in an interview expressed worry that the government is yet to implement some of the critical recommendations such as abolishing the death penalty, improving prison conditions and protecting journalists, among others.
He said: “Malawi has been elected into the council because it has managed to act on some of the recommendations such as the Gender Equality Act. But it needs to implement other recommendation which were made. We still have over-crowded prisons.
“We also have seen journalists being victimised during the course of their work but we have not seen anyone who victimised journalists being arrested. Government should act on some of the recommendations.”
On his part, Cedep executive director Gift Trapence said now that Malawi is on the global spotlight, it needs to focus on improving minority and children’s rights.
Responding to some of the concerns, Mvalo said: “As has always been the case, Malawi shall ensure the promotion of human rights and its mechanisms by widening the space for engagement and dialogue with civil society, and national human rights institutions, among others.”
Malawi’s five-year human rights record will be reviewed in early November this year. Mvalo said government is optimistic of scoring higher marks because it implemented almost all the recommendations which were made last year.