Parliament has not discussed reports detailing the human rights situation in the country for several years, but the Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) has appealed to the new government to do so when Parliament starts meeting this Tuesday.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has been presenting annual reports to Parliament in the past years in accordance with Section 37 of the Human Rights Act.
The 2013 report, which covered MHRC activities between January to December 2013, found that a total of 516 human rights abuses complaints were registered, signifying a 47 percent increase from the 351 complaints that were registered in 2012.
MHRC chairperson Sophie Kalinde confirmed that the commission’s reports have not been discussed by Parliament even after they were presented to the Speaker.
Said Kalinde: “It is true Parliament hasn’t discussed the reports in a long time, but we have presented them to the Speaker and even the President. Whether the report is discussed is not within our powers.”
But Cedep executive director Gift Trapence said the new government has an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past administrations by tabling the commission’s reports in Parliament.
“We know that in the past government has refrained from tabling the reports for discussion because they have been negative about government. But it’s not about negative human rights records but also trends which Parliament has to track,” Trapence said.
He said cases of human rights abuses such as Cashgate, suspicious deaths of Malawians such as Robert Chasowa and 20 Malawians on July 20 2011 were all trends which Parliament needed to monitor.
Trapence said trends have shown that government was the biggest violator of human rights, but it had obligations to inform the nation through Parliament on MHRC recommendations.
New President Peter Mutharika has pledged good governance and rule of law and has said his government would not shield perpetrators of theft of public resources.
The 2013 MHRC report also made recommendations on key issues of human rights and governance which came up in the past year for government and other stakeholders action.