Malawi Law Society (MLS) has warned against use of excessive force against suspects, saying it is illegal in any democratic set-up.
The MLS caution comes after Malawi Police Service (MPS) Inspector General (IG) Lexten Kachama ordered the police to ‘shoot to kill’ any suspect who is violent when caught abducting people with albinism.
The IG issued the order in Machinga during an awareness meeting against the killing of people with albinism.
Reacting to the IG’s order in an interview yesterday, MLS secretary Khumbo Soko said: “A blanket authorisation of use of lethal force without regard to obtaining circumstances is clearly not legally tenable.
“Use of firearms by law enforcement agencies is restricted to circumstances where there is imminent threat to life, limb or property.”
But Soko pointed out that while his body unreservedly condemns the atrocities being committed against people with albinism—which he described as barbaric and having no place in a civilised society—proper and legal action needs to be followed to curb the malpractice.
Kachama’s order came against the background of increased reports of killings and abductions of people with albinism, a situation that prompted the Association of Persons with Albinism (APA) to call on government to give them protection.
During Albinism Awareness Day in Blantyre last month, APA executive director Boniface Massah bemoaned the lenient sentences meted on people convicted of abducting or killing people with albinism.
This is not the first time a shooting order has been made in Malawi. In January 2011, former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika ordered police to shoot to kill suspected criminals to reduce crime in the country.
However, the presidential order received condemnation from human rights organisations, who argued that principles of natural justice presume every person as innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law.