By Burnett Munthali
Malawi police have today written a letter apologizing for their unprofessional conduct after they threw teargas at Chancellor College students who peacefully protested against their academic calendar last week. They must be commended for realising their mistake and unprofessional conduct and at least for giving an apology in writing.
However, it appears the university students were peaceful during their protests but it is surprising how police arrived at the decision to throw teargas at the campus.
Watching the video which was captured upstairs inside the hostels at Chancellor College, one wonders the judgement that was made by the officers on duty.
The students went through very uncomfortable and disturbing smoke for no good reason as a result of the teargas that obviously came through the hostels as a surprise.
The explanation given by Malawi police for the tear gas thrown at the campus is annoyingly lame excuse.
A report and videos must be shared to Amnesty International as evidence of police brutality.
Malawi police officers on duty including their commanding officer must be held accountable for the wrong judgement and unprofessional conduct they displayed on this day.
This must be a big lesson to the police force in the manner they handle the public during peaceful protests.
Below is a highlight of police brutality worldwide on the unlawful use of teargas on peaceful protesters.
Amnesty International recently published new evidence of the misuse of tear gas by security forces in several countries in the second half of 2020, including during protests around the election in Uganda, the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA, and in the repression of protesters in Lebanon.
The organization’s interactive website Tear Gas: An Investigation has now been updated to include new cases of police committing human rights violations against peaceful protesters around the world.
The ongoing misuse of tear gas by police forces around the world is reckless and dangerous.
Since first launching the site in June 2020, Amnesty International has verified recent incidents of tear gas misuse in several countries, including France, Guatemala, India, Mali, Nigeria, Peru, Serbia and Tunisia.
The ongoing misuse of tear gas by police forces around the world is reckless and dangerous, often injuring and sometimes even killing peaceful protesters.
Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme’s updated analysis is further proof that security forces continue to misuse this less lethal weapon on a massive scale. Far too often in 2020, peaceful protesters were met with violence, including the widespread, unlawful use of tear gas, which can amount to torture or other ill-treatment in certain circumstances.
Malawi Police Service must be reminded to respect the right to peaceful protest, and hold to account those who used tear gas unlawfully against people exercising this right.
The update includes 27 new events in 12 countries where tear gas has been misused, with open source investigators verifying the location and date of each instance, and assessing its lawfulness. In total, the website now includes videos of more than 100 incidents of tear gas misuse from 31 countries and territories.
In Uganda, political unrest in the aftermath of the contested election was met with an internet blackout, as well as a crackdown that included killings, beatings and violent dispersal of opposition supporters using tear gas and rubber bullets.
In Lebanon, protesters took to the streets following the devastating blast at the port of Beirut in August 2020 that killed at least 204 people. During the protests against the government’s response to the explosion, Lebanese security forces repeatedly used dangerous and unlawful force to attempt to control protests, including the excessive use of tear gas.
In Nigeria, #EndSars protests broke out in October 2020, with people demanding an end to police brutality, extrajudicial executions and extortion by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian police tasked with fighting violent crime. They were met with unlawful use of force by the army and police forces, including the firing of tear gas, and at least 12 peaceful protesters were reportedly shot dead when the army opened fire on thousands of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate.
In dozens of cities across the USA, a range of law enforcement agencies targeted peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters with tear gas and other crowd control agents.
There were similar examples of tear gas misuse during protests in Indonesia, Peru and Guatemala.
Open source investigation
Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab began researching tear gas misuse around the world from 2019, primarily through analysing videos posted to social media platforms.
Using open source investigation methods, the organization verified and highlighted events where tear gas has been misused.
The analysis was carried out by Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps, a network of students at seven universities on four continents trained in sourcing and verifying content from social media.
Malawi Police must learn to use teargas appropriately and avoid a repeat of the ugly scene at Chancellor College.
Today, most countries use teargas to disperse crowds. One wonders, how do Malawi police disperse students in their own hostels?
According to policing documents, tear gas and other nonlethal weapons help officers gain control of a situation without using deadly force. However, I think this was deadly force that was used by Malawi police against innocent students at their campus and indeed, in their own rooms.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author not necessarily of The Maravi Post or Editor