No natural death in police custody

By the end of the past week, Malawians will have probably forgotten that a citizen suspected of a crime was killed while in the custody of the police.

Many will refrain from pointing fingers at the people that Buleya Lule, a suspect in the abduction of a 14-year-old boy with albinism in Dedza, was last seen with on the fateful day last month.

Lule was allegedly found dead on the day that he and others appeared in court to answer charges of abduction of the boy. He pleaded not guilty while his co-accused persons pleaded guilty in the abduction but pointed at Lule as the masterminder of the whole incident.

But before we could hear Lule’s side of the story, his lifeless body was taken to the mortuary where relatives observed that he had burn wounds likely inflicted by something electronic.

Now Malawians know what caused Lule’s death. It is not natural causes as the Malawi Police Service (MPS) would have wanted the public to believe. The man was killed through electrocution.

While in the hands of the police, some hit Lule in the head with a round object then they placed a hot iron on his buttocks.

The police and those who are protesting too much as if the autopsy report has named them would want the public to believe some unknown individuals breached the security at the police station bringing in different types of the equipment that was used to torture Lule to death.

As laughable as that assertion sounds, it is a clear sign of desperation of someone who has something to hide and would do anything that the truth remains hidden from view.

The results of the postmortem ably carried out by a renowned pathologist Charles Dzamalala are in sharp contrast with the findings of the Police begging the question, what did the Police want to hide?

Death, in whatever form it comes, is painful even more so when the circumstances surrounding the death are questionable.

Lule’s family deserves justice because as far as they are concerned, their brother was not guilty of any offense. He was merely an accused person.

Apart from Lule’s family Malawian’s deserve the truth on the kidnapping of that 14-year-old boy in Dedza. Killing Lule has denied the family of the boy and citizens in general, an opportunity to learn what happened and by extension what has been happening in the killings and abductions of persons with albinism.

It is time for the authorities to act on these extra-judicial killings, especially at a time when persons with albinism are not safe in their own homes, their own country.

When government authorities kill a citizen suspected of a crime without judicial process, questions should be raised and answers sought immediately. There is usually a cover-up.

Had it not been for the vigilance of Lule’s family with the help of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Lule’s death would have gone undetected, just like the suspect who allegedly jumped from a moving vehicle and one who hang himself—all while in Police custody.

At the height of a spate of armed robberies a few years ago, resulting in the death of some Police Officers, the authorities took it upon themselves to carry out a shoot-to-kill policy on suspects.

It had to take reporting the Malawi government to the United Nations and pressure locally from the likes of Malawi Law Society for such an order to be silently rescinded. There have not been incidences of suspects shot dead by Police in recent times.

This is not the first extra-judicial and if no person is taken to task, it will not be the last. There are people out there of stories of family members tortured during interrogations at the Police. It is only when Police officers sacrifice their own that there will be a stop to this. n


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