Amnesty International (AI) has urged Malawi to overhaul the criminal justice system to protect people with albinism.
Amnesty International, a global movement of more than seven million people in over 150 countries and territories who campaign to end abuses of human rights said Thursday, although people with albinism continue to face the persistent threat of being killed for their body parts in the country, many of the horrific crimes remain unresolved and perpetrators unpunished.
In a statement signed by regional director for Southern Africa Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International says people with albinism in the country face long delays in getting justice.
“People with albinism deserve to see justice for these vile, hateful crimes against them. That it takes so long for cases to be investigated or heard in court is a sobering indictment of the systematic failures in Malawi’s criminal justice system,” reads the statement in part.
Since November 2014, the number of reported crimes against people with albinism in Malawi has risen to 148 including 14 murders and seven attempted murders, according to police figures.
However, Amnesty International has established that at least 21 people with albinism have been killed since 2014.
“The authorities must end impunity for these crimes immediately. As a first step, they must ensure all pending cases are dealt with without undue delay, and in line with international standards of fairness,” the statement further says.
The body has decried the rate at which the cases are being concluded, which they say is slow as compared to the criminal investigations.
Statistics from the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, show that only 30 percent of the reported 148 cases against people with albinism have been concluded.
Human rights bodies, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) together with Centre for Human and Resource Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) have both thrown their weight behind the sentiments expressed by Amnesty International.
CCJP acting national coordinator Boniface Chibwana in an interview Thursday said the number of cases that have so far been conclusively prosecuted if compared to the number of cases reported is giving an impression of lack of seriousness on the part of government.
Chibwana said: “We are implementing several programmes in line with the same and the feeling with the people on the ground is that the security and law enforcing agents are not doing enough to protect them. We have left a lot of loopholes within the system which the perpetrators are still exploiting.”
CHRR executive director Timothy Mtambo echoed the sentiments saying as human rights defenders they have always said that justice delayed is justice denied.
“And the issues to do with killings of people with albinism are serious crimes. Crimes against humanity. The crimes that must be eradicated,” he said.
The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala said the ministry is committed to prosecute all cases, including those involving people with albinism.
“The ministry, through the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP] has made steady progress in ensuring that all these cases are prosecuted. For instance, the case of the late Mark Masambuka is coming to court next week for committal. This is progress.” Masanjala said.
On her part, Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Agness Patemba said in response to the situation and to ensure a speedy and quality justice delivery they have recruited 17 magistrates to be deployed in some districts.
“But the recruitment itself does not guarantee a solution to this problem. The problem is multifaceted. We need to dig deeper as to what is the root of the problem. Otherwise we will be firefighting by not dealing with the root,” she said.