Human rights defender Timothy Mtambo has reiterated that the drive to reduce armed robberies in the country can be successful with a sustainable security plan backed by resources not shooting suspects.
Mtambo, who heads the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), said this did not mean he was defending armed robbers, but the right to life which he stated was non-derogable and applied to police officers, civilians and even suspects.
Mtambo’s comments come against the background of the shooting of four suspected armed robbers who were attempting a heist at a Puma Energy (Malawi) Limited service station at Kanengo in Lilongwe on Friday.
Last Monday, a police officer on the security detail of Petroda (Malawi) Limited was shot dead during a heist just off Paul Kagame Highway in Lilongwe after armed robbers hijacked a minibus carrying cash.
But Inspector General (IG) of Police LextenKachama last week denied the existence of the shoot-to-kill policy initially championed by former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika in 2011, saying there was no such law.
Mtambo said: “As human rights defenders, we are equally concerned with the insecurity in the country. When crime rates are high, the right to personal security, right to property and right to life are all affected. But shooting suspects is not the only solution.”
He cited United Nations (UN) Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials 1990 (Principle 9) which states that “intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable to protect life”
The UN states that police officers have to first identify themselves and warn suspects of their intention to fire before doing so.
Since Peter Mutharika and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, there have been increased cases of armed robberies, including break-ins to houses of high-profile personalities such as Vice-President SaulosChilima’s official residence in Blantyre and Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security AtupeleMuluzi in Area 9 while he served as Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining.
There have also been several armed robbery cases where police officers have been shot dead, prompting some quarters to call for the reintroduction of shoot-to-kill policy.