LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The country’s state right watchdog Malawi Human Right Commission (MHRC) on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 condemned in the strongest terms any State sponsored attacks on human rights defenders and in particular the detention of rights activist Sylvester Namiwa of Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI).

The commission has expressed worrisome on how President Lazarus Chakwera’s Tonse government police manhandled Namiwa arguing that law enforcers hand no mandate harass him while he was exercising his rights to demonstrate.

In a press statement made available to The Maravi Post, the commission worried with police conduct that Namiwa was placed in a solitary cell at Lilongwe Police Station and was put in leg irons as if he was a dangerous criminal.

The commission’s chairperson Scader Louis therefore demands Inspector General of Police (IG) George Kaija explanation on Namiwa’s torture justification.

“IG Kaija must also explain and justify why a leader of a public demonstration should be put in leg irons. The Commission is concerned that Mr. Namiwa was not granted police bail on the same day of his arrest, although the reasons for his arrest were unjustified and he did not resist the arrest.Meanwhile, recent events have shown that some suspects being accused of serious criminal offences are being granted police bail.There must be consistency and fairness in treating all persons without discrimination.

“The Commission condemns in the strongest terms any State sponsored attacks on human rights defenders and in particular the detention of rights activist Mr. Sylvester Namiwa of Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI). All the actions of manhandling him and denying him bail were unnecessary and uncalled for. These actions are contrary to the police reforms that have been championed for decades.The Commission will therefore conduct full investigations into the matter and will release findings of the investigations in due course,” reads part of MHRC statement.

The Commission also calls upon the Commissioner of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to conduct independent investigations into this matter.

Malawi police are mute on Namiwa’s brutality but reports show that Msundwe battalion under Chakwera’s Malawi Congress Party (MCP) sanctioned the assault.

Below is Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) statement:

PRESS STATEMENT CONDEMNING THE ARREST AND ILL TREATMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS


The Malawi Human Rights Commission (the Commission) has followed the developments surrounding the arrest of Mr. Sylvester Namiwa, the Executive Director for Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiative (CDEDI). Mr. Namiwa was arrested on Wednesday 11th August 2021 for allegedly organizing an illegal demonstration.

Mr. Namiwa had led demonstrations at the entrance of Parliament Buildings in Lilongwe. The demonstrations were
triggered by an allegation of the smuggling of a bill to Parliament by a Presidential aide and a public officer in the Ministry of Finance.

According to the police, Mr. Namiwa was arrested because the demonstrations were not sanctioned by Lilongwe City Council. Mr. Namiwa was released on court bail on Friday, 13th August 2021.

The Commission has conducted preliminary investigations on the matter and has noted a number of human rights violations.

Firstly, the Commission is concerned that a human rights activist was arrested for merely exercising his right. Albeit existing irregularities, the police ought to have stopped the demonstrations and not arrest the human rights activist.

Secondly, the Commission is concerned with the manner in which Mr. Namiwa was roughed up by the police during his arrest. This was undignified. As if that was not enough, he was handcuffed and whisked away to Linthipe Police Unit in Dedza, yet the events leading to his arrest happened in Lilongwe.

There was no justification for this action which in the process denied his relatives, lawyers and fellow comrades the right to communicate with him.

After he was taken back to Lilongwe, Mr. Namiwa was placed in a solitary cell at Lilongwe Police Station and was put in leg irons as if he was a dangerous criminal.

The Commission strongly condemns police action which is not in line with the Constitution of Malawi as well as international human rights standards.

Section 42 of the Constitution states that every arrested person must be held under conditions that are consistent with human dignity.

Placing a suspect of crime under leg irons is inconsistent with human dignity and should be condemned without any reservations.

It is a relic of the past and should not be condoned under the new democratic regime where our police service is expected to abide by human rights standards in the performance of their duties.

There is no justification at all for any suspect to be treated as if they are a condemned prisoner. One must always be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law.

Again Section 42 of the Constitution states that a detained person must be given the means and opportunity to communicate with and to be visited by his or her spouse, partner, next of kin, relative, religious counsellor and medical practitioner of his or her choice.

The same section states that an arrested person must be allowed to consult confidentially with their legal practitioner.

The actions of the police by whisking Mr. Namiwa away from Lilongwe to Dedza made it very difficult for all these rights to be exercised.

The Inspector General of Police must explain why this was done and for what justification. He must also explain and justify why a leader of a public demonstration should be put in leg irons.

Furthermore, the Commission is concerned that Mr. Namiwa was not granted police bail on the same day of his arrest, although the reasons for his arrest were unjustified and he did not resist the arrest.

Meanwhile, recent events have shown that some suspects being accused of serious criminal offences are being granted police bail.There must be consistency and fairness in treating all persons without discrimination.

Finally, the Commission condemns in the strongest terms any State sponsored attacks on human rights defenders and in particular the detention of rights activist Mr. Sylvester Namiwa of Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI).

All the actions of manhandling him and denying him bail were unnecessary and uncalled for. These actions are contrary to the police reforms that have been championed for decades.

The Commission will therefore conduct full investigations into the matter and will release findings of the investigations in due course.

The Commission also calls upon the Commissioner of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to conduct independent investigations into this matter.


Dated this 17th Day of August 2021
Ms. Scader Louis
CHAIRPERSON

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