MHRC probes police on arbitrary arrests

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has opened investigations into reports that Malawi Police Service (MPS) is making arbitrary arrests and has since called for calm and dialogue over the worsening political crisis in the country.

Briefing journalists in Lilongwe on Thursday, the State organ condemned the spate of violence in the country and called for restraint among all players, saying the country was fast degenerating into “lawlessness and anarchy”.

Co-addressed the media: Chizuma

Led by commissioners Rosemary Kanyuka and Martha Chizuma, MHRC, which condemned the killing of Police Mobile Service (PMS) Superintendent Usumani Imedi by protesters on Tuesday at Msundwe in Lilongwe, said they are investigating several deaths related to the protests.

Among others, MHRC cited the death of a child at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital purportedly resulting from tear gas fired by police in the hospital’s precincts and the death of Justin Phiri at Mzuzu Prison. The commission also said it had observed the brutal beating of human rights defender Billy Mayaya during the demonstrations in Blantyre as well as the injuries suffered by Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers while controlling protests in Karonga.

“There are allegations that the police, in the process of addressing the after-effects of the violent demonstration, are effecting arbitrary arrests and those arrested are being subjected to cruel treatment.

“The commission unreservedly condemns all these violations of human rights. Much as the citizens have a right to demonstrate, they have to do so within the law and without infringing upon other people’s rights. Similarly, in trying to preserve peace or conduct investigations, the police are supposed to do so within the law and not violate people’s rights,” said the commission in a statement.

While acknowledging the right to demonstrations, MHRC also called for discussions to solve the crisis amicably, announcing that it would engage in “quit diplomacy” with all key stakeholders to attempt to bring an amicable solution to the crisis.

Kanyuka, who is the Law Commissioner, said the commission will  reach out to the State, political parties, religious leaders, civil society, traditional leaders and development partners for talks.

Since the announcement of presidential election results in the May 21 Tripartite Elections, Malawi has been facing spontaneous and organised nationwide protests amid a court challenge by two of the presidential candidates, Saulos Chilima of UTM Party and Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has also been organising a series of demonstrations to demand the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process marred by irregularities.

The Constitutional Court is currently hearing a petition by Chilima and Chakwera seeking nullification of the presidential election results and an order for a rerun.

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