Malawi Government has used its presence at the ongoing African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) summit in Banjul, Gambia to defend its human rights record.
Last week, Nation on Sunday reported about a letter from UN special rapportuer to Malawi Government seeking Lilongwe’s explanation on a number of rights concerns local activists have reported to the UN agency.
The development has led to a row between the Ministry of Justice and the activists amid accusations and counter-accusations on how the civil society organisations (CSOs) have focused on reporting human rights concerns to the international community before addressing local channels.
Minister of Justice Samuel Tembenu is expected to also address the summit in Banjul, but according to a speech Malawi’s Solicitor General Janet Banda delivered this week, Malawi feels it is doing well in respect of good governance and respect to rights.
Among other efforts, Banda cited the special Law Commission currently reviewing the laws on abortion, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the May 20 2014 peaceful elections, the recently assented to Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations law and the anti-human trafficking legislation as positive developments in protection of rights.
“Malawi has made huge strides in relation to specific rights and freedoms such as rights of persons with disabilities, rights of women, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and demonstration,” said Banda.
She further cited the enactment of the Disabilities Act in July 2012, which has domesticated essential elements of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities as another example. On freedom of expression, she said an access to information policy was adopted and the Access to Information Bill was completed.
Rights activists who penned the UN commission on human rights faulted the State for attempting to thwart demonstrations earlier in January, but Banda said government has been mindful of protecting freedom of assembly and demonstration despite the tragic events of July 20 and 21 2011, which claimed 20 lives.
“The police have now been oriented to better manage peaceful demonstration. Government has trained police officers in this area to prevent a repetition of July 20/21 2011. So far, civil society coalitions have been able to carry out demonstrations peacefully,” she said.
Nation on Sunday reported last week on how the letter addressed to Malawi’s United Nations Ambassador to US and permanent representative to the UN Brian Bowler by the special rapportuer quizzed government that its officials have been threatening human rights defenders Macdonald Sembereka and Gift Trapence and their organisations.