October 9, 2018
Malawi Police Service
Dear Inspector General:
We, the undersigned local, regional, and international organizations, write to urge the Malawi Police Service to urgently and thoroughly investigate attacks and threats against human rights defenders and an opposition legislator that have occurred in recent months.
The attacks include an incident reported to the police in Lilongwe, where, on the night of August 30, five unidentified individuals invaded the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) offices and severely beat up a security guard (who sustained two broken front teeth) before trying to petrol-bomb the offices. According to Timothy Mtambo, CHRR director, the police have so far not indicated any progress in investigations since the filing of the complaint by a CHRR staff member. Human rights defenders often complain that the police treat their complaints with indifference and take no action to carry out investigations.
Timothy Mtambo (who also chairs the Human Rights Defenders Coalition of Malawi) and CHRR are known not only in Malawi for efforts to promote human rights, but also internationally for advocacy to assure justice for the most serious crimes, including through the International Criminal Court (ICC). The attack has generated concern across Africa and beyond among international and regional organizations that partner with CHRR on this work.
In two other recent incidents, unknown individuals sent death threats to Youth and Society Director Charles Kajoloweka, and in August, unidentified attackers in Mangochi torched a vehicle belonging to opposition legislator Agness Nyalonje of the United Transformation Movement (UTM). The arson attacks took place ahead of a planned rally by the opposition UTM.
As Malawians enter the campaign period ahead of national elections expected in May next year, the police should do more to curb incidents of harassment and political violence. Decisive police action to thoroughly investigate and arrest those responsible would help to end impunity for these crimes and send a clear message of zero tolerance for political violence and related abuses.
The government of Malawi has obligations under domestic and international law to ensure full protection of human rights including freedom of expression, association, personal liberty, and security. The Malawi Police Service and other responsible state institutions should reassure all citizens and act to ensure their protection, including human rights defenders who should be able to do their important work without fear of attacks or harassment.
We urge the Malawi Police Service to act on these concerns.
With assurances of our highest consideration,
Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (Ghana)
Africa Legal Aid
Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (Sierra Leone)
CLEEN Foundation (Nigeria)
Coalition for the ICC
Coalition for Justice and Accountability (Sierra Leone)
Human Rights Watch
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Nigeria Coalition for the ICC
Southern African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes
Transitional Justice Working Group (Liberia)