In the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, government has written the African Commission requesting for the postponement of the consideration of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Protocol on the Rights of Women report which was scheduled for October in Niger.
A communication from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to stakeholders, including civil society organisations that prepare shadow reports, indicates that Malawi has asked to be considered at the next session.
Reads the communication: “As you are aware, Malawi’s initial and combined report on the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Protocol on the Rights of Women was scheduled for consideration by the Commission in Niger on 17th and 18th October 2014. However, due to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the government of Malawi has written the commission indicating that Malawi’s Report should be considered at the 57th Session of the Commission in March-April 2015.”
“In that regard, all preparations regarding the official Malawi delegation to Niger have been stopped. The National Task Force meeting which was scheduled for early October will instead be held in March 2015,” says chief state advocate Pacharo Kayira.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Apoche Itimu confirmed the development, saying government has taken a precautionary measure in the wake of the outbreak Said Itimu: “Yes, it’s a precautionary measure. It is not only Malawi’s report that will be considered. Further, the commission also looks at various other issues when in sitting. So, no, we are not suggesting that it [session] be postponed. Malawi has asked that its report be considered in April next year instead.”
Itimu said the commission has acknowledged receipt of Malawi’s request, but “we have not yet had their response to the request”.
However, Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence, whose organisation is one of those that prepared a shadow report, said it could have been better if Malawi advocated change of venue considering that this was its initial report to be considered.
Said Trapence: “Though the Ebola is a valid reason to ask for the report to be presented in the next session, Malawi could have asked for change of the venue to another country. Since submission of its report last year, it has taken long for Malawi’s report to be considered for presentation.”
“We also need to take note that Malawi has never submitted a report to the commission and this is its first-ever report. We wished the Government consulted other stakeholders before communicating to the Commission so that we could have a consensus what we could put across to them. We could have asked and advocated the Commission to identify a new venue where the session could be hosted,” he said.
Trapence said the submission of periodic reports to the commission was important for government to demonstrate willingness and commitment to adhering to the prevailing international human rights instruments.
“This is also one way how Malawi can take stock whether government is making progress in creating an enabling environment where the rights of all citizens, be it civil, political, socio-economic and cultural, are respected and protected,” he said.
Like was the case with the report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights report is also informing the Commission why Malawi retains the death penalty among other contentious issues.
It reads in part: “The majority of people in Malawi do not support the abolition of the death penalty and, as such, there are no immediate plans to abolish the death penalty.”
“Section 8 of the Constitution stipulates that the Legislature when enacting laws shall reflect, in its deliberations, the interests of all the people of Malawi and shall further the values explicit and implicit in the Constitution. Malawi will continue to listen to the voices of its people regarding the issue of death penalty,” it says.