The United Nations Human Rights Commission has faulted Malawi’s failure to establish an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or injury to citizens.
The commission is provided for in the Police Act of 2010, but seven years down the line government has not yet constituted it.
In a letter to the Malawi permanent representative at the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Robert Salama, Special Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations dated November 27 2017 rated as unsatisfactory the country’s responses to recommendations on action on prohibition of torture and extra judicial killings.
The letter said the committee had also recommended that Malawi should establish a central system to keep track of all complaints and make them publicly accessible.
Reads the report on follow-up to concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: “The committee regrets the considerable delay in establishing the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and requires information on the progress made in this respect; on the composition of the commission and the authority it would report to; and on measures taken to ensure its independence from police and to provide it with adequate human and financial resources to enable it to operate effectively.”
At the last report review in 2014, the UN asked the Malawi Government to expeditiously establish the IPCC and allocate adequate human and financial resources to it.
In its response, the Malawi Government said the Malawi Police Service (MPS) has a Professional Standards Unit handling inquiries into serious acts of police misconduct where some culprits are either prosecuted or face disciplinary actions, including dismissal.
The 2015 reply to the UN also stated a consultation process with key stakeholders for the establishment commission was underway.
But the UN committee was not satisfied with the responses.
Reads the report: “The committee regrets that no information was provided on whether a central system to keep track of all complaints of torture and ill-treatment has been established and on whether such information is publicly accessible and not provided upon request only. The committee reiterates its recommendation.”
The Malawi Government reply was rated as unsatisfactory, meaning that “action taken or information provided by the State party is not relevant or does not implement the recommendation”.
Human rights defender Gift Trapence said in an interview yesterday the establishment of the IPCC has been slow and the full implementation of the activities a road map set has not happened.
He said: “We need Malawians to start using this IPCC. The government should update Malawians why the process has stalled.”
Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs chief State advocate (Human Rights Section) Pacharo Kayira said in an interview yesterday that the State would respond by July 31 2018 when the next periodic State party report is due for submission.
On the status of the establishment of the IPCC since the 2015 review, he said: “Not yet. However, significant work has been done on this including consultations on the set up of the organisation among others.”
The committee has also asked for additional information of the four police officers who were charged with homicide in July 20 2011 demonstrations, status of prosecution of remaining cases as well as compensation to the victims’ families.
Kayira said the 2018 report would provide comprehensive statistics on progress on July 20 cases as well as other extra-judicial killings that have taken place since 2012.
The Human Rights Section in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs through a National Task Force comprising government ministries and departments and civil society organisations are currently compiling the report for submission to the UN committee.
Malawi is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. n