Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) says it has established that police officers raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually assaulted three under-18 girls in an October 8 operation around Msundwe on the outskirts of Lilongwe City.
In an investigation report commissioners Martha Chizuma and Mary Kanyuka released yesterday in Lilongwe, MHRC said 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.
She said: “In the course of their operations of clearing the road, controlling the crowds and making arrests, some police officers ventured into the villages and nearby locations throwing tear gas into houses, beating [people] and breaking into houses.
“As a result, most people, especially men and the youth, fled their village to their gardens, leaving the villages deserted. Some of the women who were left in the villages as others fled or arrived in the village while others fled met police officers who violently beat them, raped and indecently assaulted them.”
The report further exposed that the incidents happened in Mpingu where eight of the 17 survivors were sexually assaulted and raped while the remaining met their predicaments in M’bwatalika. However, it reveals there was no case of violence the commission came about in Msundwe.
MHRC conducted the investigations to identify human rights violations and to facilitate access to justice and legal remedies of the survivors of the human rights violations.
On legal findings, the commission said it found that survivors were subjected to different forms of torture, cruel and inhumane treatment as they were violently beaten and had their private parts “harshly groped” and that they were stripped naked in the presence of their children.
Said Chizuma: “This was a clear breach of provision against torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment under Section 19 of the Constitution… By raping, defiling and assaulting them, police were in breach of Section 20 of the Constitution…”
MHRC has recommended that the acting Inspector General of Police Duncain Mwapasa should institute criminal investigations into the matter and that the probe should target police officers deployed in Mpingu and M’bwatalika on the day.
The officers were led by superintendents Kantchowa, Chisale and Msukwa and Inspector Chipofya (all presented without their first names in the report.)
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera did not pick our calls to give the reaction of the police.
But in an earlier interview before the release of MHRC report, he said police will take action on the officers upon completing their investigations. Police instituted own investigations into the alleged Msundwe atrocities widely seen as an act of vengeance by officers after their colleague was stoned to death during a fracas in the area.