Police say they will only respond to a Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) investigation report which details how some police officers sexually abused women in Lilongwe, effectively ignoring a Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) ultimatum.
In an interview yesterday in the wake of an HRDC five-day ultimatum for police to arrest officers accused of raping and sexually assaulting some women at M’bwatalika and Mpingu trading centres in Lilongwe, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera did not respond to what they would do if HRDC proceeds with demonstrations, but said their focus was on the MHRC report.
He said: “We are going to respond only to the MHRC report because it is an issue of national interest.”
HRDC national chairperson Timothy Mtambo gave the police a five-day ultimatum from Saturday to arrest suspects behind the alleged raping of women in the two communities along the Lilongwe-Mchinji Road.
Yesterday, Kadadzera maintained that police will make a proper response only to the MHRC report which reveals that 13 women and four under-18, girls were raped by uniformed men in October.
He said: “MHRC has released the report. Definitely, they want to hear our stand. So, we will respond in our statement…”
HRDC has threatened to hold demonstrations on December 27 if police will not arrest those who allegedly raped women and girls.
Yesterday, Mtambo argued that HRDC will not wait for police to conclude investigations because the time frame which police instituted the commission of inquiry is overdue as nobody has been arrested for the suspected crime.
In its report, MHRC said it has established that police officers raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually assaulted three under-18 girls in an October 8 operation.
In the investigation report commissioners Martha Chizuma and Rosemary Kanyuka released on Wednesday in Lilongwe, MHRC says its investigation established that the police officers raped the women as they fled violent scenes.
Reading the report to the media yesterday, Chizuma, who is also the Ombudsman, said there were almost 100 police officers deployed in three teams stationed at M’mbwatalika, Msundwe and Mpingu trading centres along the Lilongwe-Mchinji Road with others roving in communities where they allegedly tear gassed people to displace them.
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.
The officers deployed at the two areas were led by superintendents Kantchowa, Chisale and Msukwa and Inspector Chipofya (all presented without their first names in the report.)
Police also instituted their own investigations into the alleged Msundwe atrocities which were widely seen as an act of vengeance by officers after their colleague was stoned to death during a fracas in the area.