Malawi Police Service (MPS) says it has deployed six top-notch investigators to conduct full criminal investigations against some of its officers alleged to have sexually assaulted women and girls at Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu in Lilongwe.
This follows a Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) report on an inquiry it conducted on the alleged misconduct by the police issued last week which found that 17 police officers allegedly raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually assaulted three under-18 girls during their October 8 2019 operation in the area.
The MHRC, which recommends in its report that acting Police Inspector General Duncan Mwapasa should institute criminal investigations into the matter, has since commended the move.
In a statement dated January 4 2020, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera says the investigations are paying due attention to the MHRC inquiry report, reports both in the social and mainstream media and testimonies from survivors and witnesses.
Reads the statement: “The Malawi Police Service wishes to inform the nation that full criminal investigations into alleged cases of sexual abuse by police officers at Msundwe, M’bwatalika, and Mpingu commenced on December 31 2019.
“A team of six senior police investigators from across the country is at an advanced stage of the investigations. Police management is confident that these criminal investigations will be conducted in a professional manner and without bias.”
Following reports of the sexual violations by police officers in October, MPS announced it had instituted its own inquiry.
In an interview yesterday, Kadadzera said the police inquiry is yet to be concluded.
He said: “People need to understand that as police, we are also doing an inquiry, which is yet to be concluded, but we have had calls from victims, MHRC and NGO-GCN, and these full criminal investigations are responding to that.”
Kadadzera said the investigations will start with the 17 suspects whose dockets were already opened
Ombudsman Martha Chizuma, who is also an MHRC commissioner, said in an interview yesterday they are willing to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure full compliance of all recommendations in the report.
She said: “Actually, I need to add that the police sought our assistance in this regard which as a commission we provided and it is our hope that we will continue engaging each other in good faith.
“The public will expect nothing but professionalism and maximum objectivity from police. The survivors deserve justice. The assailants deserve to be punished accordingly. The country needs closure to this very unfortunate incident.”
Chizuma added that despite the alleged assailants being police officers, the investigations are within the legal mandate of MPS.
“As per our mandate, which is to promote and protect rights, we will be on the lookout to ensure that as these investigations continue,” she added.
The MPS independence has been put to question in recent months.
In March last year, Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee (PAC), blamed the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) for not submitting names of people to be considered for appointment into the Independent Complaints Commission t.
Malawi Law Society and some civil society organisations also observed that the absence of the commission was leading to impunity by the police. Section 128 of the Police Act established the Independent Complaints Commission to receive and investigate complaints by the public against police officers and the service in general.