“A ride on a bumpy road”
CHRR ASSESSMENT OF GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE IN 2016: A GOVERNANCE AND HUMAN RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) is a Human Rights and Governance organizations in Malawi. CHRR’s vision is of a Malawi with a vibrant culture which embraces the values of democracy, human rights and rule of law. Since its inception in 1995, CHRR has championed its work at national level, SADC level through the SADC Human Rights Defenders Network at which it sits in the board, continental level through the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights using its observer status, and at UN level through different UN mechanisms such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Founded in February 1995 as a non-profit making organization, CHRR got registered under the Trustees Incorporation Act of 1962.
It remains an enduring fact that the year 2016 will go down with its well-documented hope and despair for Malawian citizens on the governance and human rights fronts. It’s worth re-affirming the point that Malawi is legally guided by a progressive and democratic Constitution, the supreme law of the land. Remarkably, Section 12 of the Constitution of Malawi obliges government to remain accountable to its citizens and conduct itself in a transparent manner consistent with an open and democratic society. Chapter IV of the Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights, remains the country’s watershed in recognizing the political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights inherent in every person. Malawi’s commitment to furtherance of human rights enjoyment is evident in the country’s ratifications of key international human rights instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to name but a few.
The country has gone further to domesticate these instruments by enacting a number of laws such as the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, Trafficking in Persons Act, Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, Child Care, Justice and Protection Act, the Gender Equality Act, among others. It is in light of the foregoing that CHRR, in line with the organisation’s mandate, assesses the government on how it has fared in 2016 on human rights and governance aspects.
The year 2016 couldn’t end on a higher note with the enactment of the long-awaited Access to Information (ATI) Bill. CHRR’s special mention goes to well-meaning parliamentarians for rising to the occasion to record a giant stride in the democratization of the country. CHRR also commends the civil society, media and development partners for their consistent advocacy support towards the passing of the Bill. That’s remarkable.
In hindsight, however, the 12-year-old battle ahead of ATI enactment was needless, if not sheer waste of time. Section 37 of the Constitution of Malawi provides for the right of access to information (ATI) and the least government could have done was to play cock-eyed tricks on the enactment of the law. No law is perfect, and the just passed ATI Bill is no exception. However, its passing—after a 12-year battle—should be looked at as a watershed in replacing a culture of secrecy and suspicion with a culture of transparency and accountability in the operations of government affairs. As a nation, we simply cannot afford to look back.
CHRR, thus, calls upon the President to equally do the needful by assenting the Bill into law without hesitation. CHRR expects the President to look at the bigger democratic picture and make good on his campaign promise on the right of access to information enshrined in Section 37 of the Constitution of Malawi.
II Threats against Human Rights Defenders, Journalists and Members of Opposition parties---a drawback on democracy
It is worth applauding the efforts by the Malawi government in guaranteeing freedom of expression in the country. Generally, the year 2016 started with citizens enjoying their civil and political rights, evidenced by peaceful protests as well as media freedom. However, the year 2016 also got blighted by disturbing trends that threatened to wipe away the gains registered and replace them with the reign of threats and terror orchestrated by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) against government critics or those with dissenting views.
Earlier in the year, the civil space got narrow when members of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) got arrested for an allegedly seditious WhatsApp chat. The fact that there seems to be no progress on the case only buttresses CHRR fears that government was just out to silence critical voice in the country. Quite undemocratic!
On 17th October 2016, for instance, a Human Rights Activist Mr. Billy Mayaya and two others were arrested for demonstrating against persisting electricity black outs. The country has also witnessed threats being issued to Kamlepo Kalua, a Member of Parliament from the Opposition Peoples Party for the simple reason that he voiced out his concerns and pointed out some irregularities on different issues bordering on corruption and good governance.
Further to this, as reported by the Daily Times Newspaper of Tuesday, 30th August, 2016, the state house has been targeting its critics and embarked on a campaign to silence all Malawians it views critical to its administration. Through different social media and online forums such as malawivoice.com, Malawi independentblog.com, blantyrepost.com among others, the officials at State house have been fabricating stories about different Malawians ranging from economists, opposition politicians, human rights defenders to journalists, among others. The troubling developments came barely three weeks after the DPP Regional Governor for the South asked the State President at a rally to authorize the youth wing of the party known as the cadets to silence the critics.
During the recent rally at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe, DPP acting general secretary Francis Mphepo threw caution to the wind by asking the newspapers “to go to hell”. The statement, coming from a powerful political figure like him, is a serious set-back to media freedom in the country.
As if that was not unfortunate enough, recently, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) fined Zodiak Brodcasting Station (ZBS), a private radio station, for granting what it deemed unbalanced media coverage. This is coming against a background that ZBS granted a lot of space to Kamlepo Kalua, an opposition legislator who spoke against the maladministration. This is not the first time that MACRA has attempted to stifle media freedom in Malawi more especially targeting the private media houses. This is despite the fact that state broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Cooperation (MBC) favours the government in its propaganda programs targeting opposition and critics, and goes undisciplined by MACRA. These double standards are a regrettable professional scandal, to say the least.
CHRR, therefore, asks the Malawi Government to stop using state resources to abuse and silence its critics including the media. Government ought to take progressive steps in guaranteeing media freedom by among others, signing the Table Mountain Declaration. Furthermore, government ought to adopt a law protecting human rights defenders in conformity with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders 1998 and the Commission’s Resolutions on Human Rights Defenders including ACHPR/Resolution 69 (XXXV) 04, ACHPR/Resolution 119 (XXXXII) 07, and ACHPR/Res.196 (L) 11;
III Rising insecurity---cause for sleepless nights
The year 2016 saw national security nose-dive once more, forcing citizens and property owners spend sleepless nights. Cases of armed robbery remained unabated. Prominent citizens such as the Vice President Hon. Saulos Chilima, Leader of Opposition Hon. Lazarus Chakwera and Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Hon. Atupele Muluzi had the wrath of insecurity in the country. Parliamentarian Jessie Kabwira had her vehicle torched by the yet-to-be known criminals. The common citizens, especially market vendors, also had a year to forget due to fires that razed down most of the major markets in the country. This is not to talk of killings and abductions of people with albinisms, worsened by increasing cases of mob justice. Perhaps, the height of insecurity in the year 2016 was the gruesome murder of a female Police Officer, Rhoda Ngoma, who was heading the Chipoka Criminal Investigating Department (CID).
CHRR believes insecurity can best be resolved by giving the Malawi Police Service more capacity, especially resources. Furthermore, government ought to conduct a thorough screening exercise during the police recruitment to avoid a possibility of entrusting people with questionable criminal records with the task of enforcing law in the country. Most importantly, there is need for a robust and meaningful investment in police- public relationship if the country is to tame insecurity.
III Sentencing of cop over 20/7/11 killing---hope for justice
There was a ray of hope when, finally, the court handed down a 12-year-jail term to a police officer involved in the 20th July, 2011 killings. The move has given hope for justice over extra-judicial killings by those in authorities. The sentencing of the police officer, however, happened against a silhouette of another unfinished business on the Robert Chasowa, Issa Njaunju murder cases, 19 citizens who were killed in cold-blood during the 20 July protests. There simply has been so much flip-flopping on the cases that one would safely accuse government of bloody complicity. A senior official at the Malawi Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Issa Njaunju was brutally murdered by unknown people. Up to now, there has been nothing tangible in as far as investigations of the perpetrators of the crime are concerned. The international community has offered to assist the Malawi government through the Malawi Police Services with the investigations. What has been very surprising and of course disheartening is that the government has not yet opened up on how and indeed whether it is willing to work with the international experts in criminal investigation to find the Njaunju killers. This has brought about a lot of speculations and of course fears among different experts in law enforcement agencies like the ACB and the Financial Intelligence Unit among others in the fight against corruption.
Further to this, there is unresolved murder case involving Robert Chasowa, a 25 year old Engineering student at the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi. For umpteenth time, the government has pledged to make sure that justice sees the light of the day in the Chasowa murder case. However, on the ground, there has been very little, if any, steps taken to make sure that the case comes to its logical conclusion. By playing hide and seek on the cases, government is setting a dangerous precedence.
CHRR hopes 2017 will see justice prevail over all the extra-judicial killing cases, once and for all. CHRR urges government to expedite the investigations and bring to book the murderers of the late Issa Njaunju, one of the directors at Malawi ACB and ensure the protection of the workers at the ACB. The Robert Chasowa case also needs to be acted on with speed. It is CHRR’s expectation that the Government of Malawi will ensure the prosecution of all alleged perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and expeditiously complete all the processes that have been already initiated, punish those who are convicted and compensate the victims.
IV Hunger Crisis---- good response undermined by exorbitant grain price and corruption reports
It’s a well-known fact that 2016 proved yet again disastrous on the enjoyment of the right to food by citizens in the country as stipulated by Section 30 (2) of the Constitution of Malawi. This was largely due to dry spells and floods that hit most parts of the country. It is, however, worth commending government for taking swift actions by among others, prioritizing the crisis in the 2016/ 2017 national budget. Government’s subsequent stocking of the country’s various Admarc depots with maize bespeaks its commitment to fulfil the right to food. CHRR also appreciates development partners’ response to the crisis through, amongst others, distributing food items to the most affected citizens.
However, media reports of fraudulent activities involving the purchase of maize from Zambia are disconcerting. CHRR gathers that Malawi government obtained a loan of K26 billion from the Eastern and Southern African Development Bank (PTA Bank) to purchase 100, 000 metric tonnes of maize from government of Zambia through Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF). Consequently, the maize price was hiked from around K5000 to K12 500 per 50 kg bag to enable Admarc repay the loan.
Disturbing reports have, however, emerged suggesting that government bought the maize from a private company at an exorbitant price. CHRR feels the move by government is a huge betrayal to the citizens, especially considering that the price of K12 500 for 50 kg bag of maize is way too high for the ordinary Malawians. It was sheer insensitive on the part of government.
Affordability is one of the critical areas in realizing the right to food and government has done a huge disservice to Malawians on pricing.
CHRR, therefore, calls upon government to consider adjusting downwards the maize price to meet the affordability for most Malawians. CHRR also calls upon the ACB to, as a matter of urgency, institute investigations into reports of corruption in the purchase of maize from Zambia. ACB should be seen to be proactive in fighting corruption rather than waiting for a complaint, as we have recently been made to believe. CHRR further urges government to act with speed on the Right to Food Bill which, if enacted, can go a long way in enhancing the country’s legal framework on the response to food shortage in the country.
There is no denying the fact that the Public Sector Reforms being championed by government are taking shape. For instance, the year 2016 also saw government finally rolling the national identification program in the country. This is commendable. Of late, Malawi has been home to a number of illegal immigrants, exacerbated by the country’s porous borders and laxity on the part of Immigration staff working along the borders. We, at CHRR, thus, hope the national identification program is a step in the right direction in reducing the high risks of statelessness in the country. If successfully conducted, the exercise will help government come up with relevant policies and resources towards critical sectors such as health and education.
CHRR, however, calls upon government to properly and publicly share the gains realized by the Reforms so far to offer citizens the opportunity to appreciate the progress made and, where necessary, offer constructive inputs on the Reforms. CHRR feels sharing the successes on a political platform should be discouraged if the Reforms are to enjoy support from all Malawians across political divide. Moreover, CHRR urges government to provide more resources towards the program to ensure that it’s a success.
VI War against corruption----a long way to go
Cognizant of the devastating impact cash-gate has had on service delivery in the country, it was only prudent for government to expedite prosecution of all cash-gate cases in the country. That’s what everyone expected, after all. This is why CHRR appreciates government efforts-- within the limited resources—to prosecute cash-gate cases, with others already convicted. It is also worth applauding government through Accountant General Office for regularly demanding reconciliation reports of previous funding from Ministries and Department Agencies (MDAs) before approval of subsequent funding. This can go a long way in inculcating fiscal discipline in government. CHRR, however, feels the fight against corruption has, over the years, been highly politicized. Actually, there has never been a year when the ACB was more politicized than 2016. This is retrogressive. More importantly, the year 2016 witnessed wide-spread reports of corruption happening in district councils in the country. Development packages such as Masaf stands out to be the most abused, with unscrupulous councils officials conniving with chiefs and Area Development and Village Development committees to create ghost workers for self-aggrandizement. This shameless and malignant level of corruption has literally defeated the real intentions of the program and condemned the deserving vulnerable groups to untold poverty. For years, there has been a cry for decentralization as one way of empowering the local citizens. However, with these disturbing corruption reports, are we, as a country, not decentralizing cash-gate?
CHRR feels the fight against corruption starts with making ACB independent by making the Parliamentary Public Appointments Committees (PAC) the appointing authority of the ACB Director, unlike in the current case where the ACB boss is behaving like a ruling party official. This is a greatest set-back the fight against corruption has been facing in the country. Most importantly, it has to be made clear that corruption or indeed cash-gate cannot be won through prosecution alone. There is need to invest in a robust civic education by government and other stakeholders on the evils of corruption. CHRR also calls upon government to regularly conduct audits in the district councils as one way of exposing corrupt practices in the councils.
VII Persistent Water Shortages and Electricity Blackouts--- a huge blow for social and economic rights
There is no gainsaying that government fared woefully in water and energy sectors in the country. The country consistently witnessed intermittent power and water supply, leading to preventable deaths in the public hospitals. The development virtually threatened the right to life, enshrined under section 16 of the Constitution of Malawi and other international instruments the country is party to.
Secondly, it must be emphasized that persistent water and electricity shortages caused huge havoc in the enjoyment of social and economic rights. The manufacturing sector that contributes a greater percentage to the GDP of our ailing economy made a lot of losses in the year due to blackouts. Malawians operating small scale businesses that depend on water and electricity availability like barbershops, video show rooms and salons cried foul. Citizens found it hard to enjoy their right to economic activity, as stipulated in section 29 of the Constitution of Malawi. This is happening despite the fact that the water and electricity tariffs are way too high for most ordinary Malawians.
CHRRs call upon government to rise up to these challenges once and for all by, among others, expediting the projects government is already exploring. The Mulanje-Blantyre and Salima-Lilongwe water projects are welcome and their completion can go a mile in resolving the crisis at hand. Similarly, energy projects such as the Kamkwamba electricity project ought to be acted upon with speed.
VIII Unwarranted closure of public universities--- a violation of right to education
The year 2016 also saw frequent and unwarranted closure of public universities, leading to pro-longed academic calendar. It appears government has fashioned a culture of shutting down public universities at every emergence of the issue that can best be handled by decisive leadership and honest dialogue. That’s deplorable. It needs no reminding that the move rolls back enjoyment of the right to education for the students and as well as exerts an extra economic burden on the parents and guardians who provide financial support to the students.
CHRR calls upon government to immediately re-open the closed universities while pursuing open and genuine dialogue to the misunderstandings.
IX Violence against people with albinisms and sexual minorities…laudable response by government
CHRR would like to commend government for taking bold steps in curbing violence against sexual minorities and people with albinism in the country. Equally worth-applauding is the moratorium government is implementing on legal status of same-sex relationships in the country. Furthermore, CHRR noted with satisfaction government and stakeholders’ efforts in dealing with abduction, killings and exhumation of remains of people with albinism in the country.
However, considering that most of the victims are from poverty-stricken families, CHRR calls upon government to consider socially and empowering people with albinism so that they become productive citizens in future. Similarly government needs to act on reports of violence against the sexual minority groups in the country as one way of protecting their various rights.
X Malawi’s sticking to ICC---a commendable commitment to international justice system.
2016 will also go down as the year Malawi government stood with victims of human rights atrocities by re-affirming its support and membership for International Criminal Court (ICC) which was founded by the Rome Statute in 1998. The stand by the Malawi government ought to be deemed as a mark of democratic sanity buttressed by serious commitment to ending heinous crimes of international nature. Of late, there has been an anti—ICC narrative by critics who have been accusing the Hague-based court for unfairly targeting Africans. The narrative has, however, been proven to be fallacious as records indicate that most of the cases before the ICC were brought by Africans themselves. Secondly, ICC critics forget to realise that the Tribunal is a court of last resort. It is, thus, important to underscore the fact that Malawi government has been able to see through the hypocrisy by ICC critics.
CHRR would, therefore, like to urge Malawi government to take a step further by coming up with a law on serious crimes such as war crimes, war against humanity and crimes of aggression. Doing so would go a long way in attaining the principle of complementarity as required by international criminal justice.
Looking back, the year 2016 wasn’t without tribulations. More depressing is the fact that most challenges in the economic and social rights were caused by natural catastrophes such as dry spells and floods. This seriously compromised government’s capacity to fulfil citizens’ social and economic rights. However, it must be underscored that, in Human Rights and Governance, it’s not a question of whether duty bearers have adequate resources in response to every right; it’s a question of whether the duty bearer can demonstrate accountability, transparency, equity and responsiveness within the limited means. As CHRR, we stand ready to support the government within our mandate to make Malawi’s democracy grow and glow with a vibrant culture of human rights in 2017 and beyond.
CHRR Executive Director
Cell: 0999 285 604
Issued on Thursday 29th December, 2016, in Lilongwe
~For Immediate Release
UN/African Union: Reject ICC Withdrawal
Security Council Meeting With AU
(New York, September 22, 2016) – The African Union (AU), in advance of a meeting with the United Nations Security Council on September 23, 2016, should end consideration of a call for mass withdrawal of its members from the International Criminal Court (ICC), a group of African nongovernmental organizations and international groups with a presence in Africa said today.
In January, the AU decided to mandate its Open-Ended Committee on the ICC to develop a “comprehensive strategy” that includes withdrawal from the ICC. The committee met on April 11, and identified three conditions that it said should be met for the AU to avoid calling for withdrawal. These included a demand for immunity for sitting heads of state and other senior officials from prosecution before the ICC.
“AU efforts to undermine the only permanent criminal court for victims of atrocities are fundamentally at odds with the AU’s rejection of impunity, and with its decision to make 2016 as the AU’s year of human rights,” said Stella Ndirangu of the Kenya section of International Commission of Jurists. “The AU’s commitment to justice cannot be reconciled with protecting African and other leaders from accountability for mass atrocities before the ICC.”
Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the AU expressly rejects and condemns impunity. The AU has also identified justice as one of its “shared values,” and 2016 as the “African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women.”
Some African ICC members are taking important steps to limit impunity, the organizations said. At the AU’s summit in Kigali from July 10 to 18, several African countries—Nigeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Botswana and Algeria—pushed back against a potential call by the African Union for a mass exit of African countries from the International Criminal Court. Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cabo Verde, and Senegal also entered reservations to the AU decision that was adopted at the summit to continue its consideration of ICC withdrawal.
In the period before the summit, 21 international and African nongovernmental organizations released a video featuring 12 African activists on the importance of the ICC and the need for African governments to support the court. The video, and a shortened version of it, have attracted more than 80,000 views on social media.
Withdrawal from the ICC is a decision to be made by individual countries and cannot be carried out by the AU. At the same time, a call from the AU for countries to withdraw or consider withdrawal would make it more difficult politically for African countries to show support for the court.
“The ICC remains the crucial court of last resort,” said Timothy Mtambo of Malawi’s Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation. “The AU should work to strengthen and support the ICC, not urge its members to quit the institution.”
The work of the Open-Ended Committee on the ICC is the latest development in a backlash against the ICC by some African leaders, focused on charges that the ICC is unfairly targeting Africa. The backlash first surged in the wake of the 2009 ICC arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, on charges of serious crimes committed in Darfur. It reached a new level of intensity in 2013, when then ICC suspects Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were elected president and deputy president of Kenya, respectively.
Six out of the nine African situations under ICC investigation came about as a result of requests or grants of jurisdictions by African governments–in Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Uganda, and two requests from the Central African Republic. In January, the ICC prosecutor opened the court’s first investigation outside Africa, in Georgia, and it is conducting several preliminary examinations of situations outside Africa. They include Afghanistan, Colombia, Palestine, and alleged crimes attributed to the armed forces of the United Kingdom deployed in Iraq.
At the same time, some powerful countries—including China, Russia, and the United States, all permanent UN Security Council members—and their allies have been able to avoid the reach of international justice. They have been able to do that by not joining the ICC and because they have a veto on the UN Security Council, which can refer situations to the court. The organizations encouraged the AU to raise these concerns during its meeting with the UN Security Council.
The three conditions the AU’s Open-Ended Committee on the ICC set at its April 11 meeting for remaining in the ICC are:
Immunity under the ICC’s Rome Statute for sitting heads of state and heads of government and senior government officials;
Intervention of the ICC in cases involving African states only after those cases have been submitted to the AU or AU judicial institutions; and
Reduction in the powers of the ICC prosecutor.
Blanket immunity for sitting heads of state has never been available before international criminal courts dealing with crimes under international law. No international tribunal—from the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, to the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to the ICC—has allowed immunity on the basis of official position.
The AU in 2014 adopted a protocol to give its regional court authority to prosecute grave crimes, also while granting immunity for sitting heads of states and other senior government officials. That protocol, which needs 15 ratifications before coming into force, has yet to be ratified by any country.
Kenya has played a leading role in mobilizing AU attacks on the ICC since 2013. On September 19, the ICC issued a finding of non-cooperation by Kenya in the now-withdrawn case against Kenyatta to the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties. The charges in the case against William Ruto, Kenya’s deputy president, were vacated for lack of evidence in April.
The decision is the first ICC finding of non-cooperation related to the failure of an ICC member country to provide assistance to the prosecution’s investigations.
For more on views of independent organizations on backlash against the ICC in Africa, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/ 11/17/memorandum-african-state s-parties-international-crimin al-court-assembly-states
https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/ 07/01/civil-society-declaratio n-sudanese-president-omar-al- bashirs-visit-south-africa
https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/ 06/09/au-icc-members-should-le ad-justice
For more information, please contact:
In Abuja, for LEDAP-Legal Defence & Assistance Project, Chino Edmund Obiagwu (English): +234-0703-000-0014; or +234-012-802-009; or +234-0803-691-3264 (mobile); or email@example.com
In Freetown, for Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law-Sierra Leone, Ibrahim Tommy (English): +232-76-365-499; or firstname.lastname@example.org
In Johannesburg, for Southern Africa Litigation Centre, Angela Mudukuti (English): +27-767-623-869; or AngelaM@salc.org.za
In Lilongwe, for Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Timothy Mtambo (English): +265-992-166-191; or mtambot@c hrrmw.org
In Nairobi, for Kenya section of the International Commission of Jurists, Stella Ndirangu (English): +254-7222-336-399; or email@example.com
In New York, for Human Rights Watch, Elise Keppler (English): +1-917-687-8576 (mobile); +1-212-216-1249 (office); or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @EliseKeppler
In New York, for Coalition for the ICC, Steve Lamony (English): +1-347-905-3060; or email@example.com
The following organizations that are active in an informal network that promotes support for serious crimes endorsed this news release:
African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (Uganda)
Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (Ghana)
Center for Accountability and Rule of Law – Sierra Leone
Coalition for the ICC
Ghana Center for Democratic Development
Malawi Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Defend Defenders-East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists-Kenya
Legal Defense and Assistance Project (Nigeria)
Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Released today, Thursday on 22nd September, 2016
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has renewed its call on Malawi government to domesticate the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in line with the Statute’s principle of complementarity.
Speaking from Dakar, Senegal, after witnessing the sentencing of former Chad ruler, Hissene Habre over crimes against humanity, CHRR Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator, Fletcher Simwaka, said Habre’s successful trial in a foreign country, Senegal, is a moment of reflection for Malawi regarding her legal position on serious crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and war aggression.
“Cognizant of the fact that Malawi is party to the Rome Statute, having ratified it in 2002, Malawi can make good on that commitment through domesticating the Statute through either a stand-alone law or penal code,” said Simwaka.
He said it is encouraging to note that Malawi’s Constitution has a progressive Bill of Rights which reflects well on other international human rights instruments such as International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which the country is party to, a status, he said, could simplify the country’s domestication of the Statute.
So far, only Genocide is criminalized in the country’s penal code, leaving out war crimes, crimes against humanity, aggression within ambits of the ICC.
CHRR has since welcomed the life imprisonment sentence handed down to the former Chadian leader, saying the landmark ruling is a dawn of hope for international criminal justice in Africa where most leaders are championing impunity and immunity.
Habre ruing is of historical importance to note that the trial in Senegal of the former Chadian leader by the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC)---a special tribunal set up by the African Union under a deal with Senegal--- is the first of its kind. END
The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) through Karonga Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (KAGEWE) project has withdrawn 80 young girls from marriages and re-enrolled them to school in Karonga the northern district of the country.
The exercise has been done in two Traditional Authorities (TAs) only which include Mwilang’ombe and Wasambo in a period of 11 months.
Speaking during the project review meeting, the project coordinator Stain Katuli said this follows implementation and application of various interventions to end child marriages.
“From January to November 2015, the organization has managed to terminate 80 teenage marriages in two traditional authorities only and as I am talking they are back to school,” said Katuli.
He said “these are young girls who were forced to go into marriages especially because of poverty and some harmful cultural practices and all of them were at secondary school level.”
According to Katuli, some of the interventions used include “provision of financial support such as fees, and school materials as well as involving the mother groups to encourage them.”
In his remarks, CHRR national coordinator of the project Makhumbo Munthali expressed worry with the number of girls who sometimes go back to their marriages due to lack of financial support.
“It is really painful that our effort of hooking girls from marriages back to school may turn to be in vain. This is because some of them end up going back into marriages as they are lack financial support,” disclosed Munthali.
Munthali further said “as CHRR we have managed to financially support 41 girls out of 80. However, the ending of the project this month gives doubts to whether those we have been supporting will finish with their education.”
While commending the stakeholders’ commitment toward the support to the project, Munthali asked for the project extension in order to let the already hooked girls continue with their education apart from appealing for the bursary.
Karonga Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (KAGEWE) is a Government project which is implemented by CHRR in Karonga district with technical support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA ) and financial support from European Union (EU).—www.nyasatimes.com/80-karonga-married-girls-rescued-taken-to-school/
Recently, Nation Publication Limited’s Weekend Nation (NPL) engaged CHRR Executive Director, Timothy Mtambo, on the cash-gate prosecutions progress and other related matters. CHRR web hereby shares what transpired.
WN: As CHRR, are you satisfied with the investigations surrounding cashgate trials?
TM: Not entirely.
WN: What have you been CHRR’s observations so far?
TM: While we have seen a series of arrests which clearly point to some level of progress being made on the matter, there is still a cloud of suspicion that surrounds these cashgate investigations, and cashgate in general. The manner in which some of these arrests have been conducted raises more questions than answers as to whether the public is being taken for another ride or not – that is, being made to believe as if something is happening. Of course, there are claims by some quarters that the cashgate arrests are selective, only targeting the previous regime. While realising that such claims may contain some level of truth based on our political history which has been characterised by a cat-and-mouse relationship between the ruling and predecessor party, we at CHRR are of the view that such notions should not inhibit the relevant authorities or the current government from carrying out independent investigations into cashgate, and in cases where those belonging to the previous regime are found to be on the bad side of the law they ought to face justice. People should not hide behind “political witch-hunting” accusations in order to evade the law. As long as such investigations are informed by intensive independent investigations, void of political interference.
WN: What are your fears as CHRR?
TM: The perennial failure by relevant authorities to finalise prosecution of “high level” cases of “national interest” has always been and continues to be our greatest fear even in the current cashgate saga. No regime since the dawn of democracy has been exempted from this cancer. The K17 billion corruption case involving the former head of state Dr Bakili Muluzi, Cassim Chilumpha treason case, the Chasowa murder case, the famous midnight six case just to mention a few are all not completed, and there is seemingly no indications that such cases shall be completed, at least for now. Informed by such a regrettable background, there is no guarantee that the swift pace which the current government has started in the investigations and its subsequent arrests shall be sustained. We may be in for another ride, and, if not careful, we may we realize this just when we are just a few days, months to another election. We just hope that the current regime will do things differently, by ensuring that all prosecutions into cashgate cases, irrespective of whether they concern big fish or small fish, are finalized as soon as possible in the best interest of the citizens who are painfully yearning for justice on the matter. It’s great to hear from both the President and the Minister of Information that government will not shield anyone implicated in the cashgate. It’s high time to translate such rhetoric to action
WN: Some members of the public have expressed their dissatisfaction over the sentences, which are said not to be fit given the amounts of money squandered, what does CHRR think?
TM: In our view, the public is justified with the expression of dissatisfaction over the sentences especially when you consider the harm cashgate has caused on the general public. Cashgate is a clear human rights violation as it impinges on the fundamental freedoms and rights including right to development, right to food, right to life, right to health just to mention a few. As such, at least from a moral perspective, a person convicted of this malpractice deserves hell and any sentence or punishment that does not live up to such expectation is likely to generate public outcry or discontent as has been the case in some of the recent cashgate cases. Even some have gone a step further to suggest that cashgate should be considered as a new form of crimes against humanity in view of the deaths which were registered in public hospitals due to shortage of drugs which the looted money would have catered for hence preventing the deaths. It is premised on such a context that the public outcry is justified. However, at the same time special consideration should be given to the question of whether such sentences imposed by the courts are within the law or not. If not within the law, then this would mean courts were in the wrong, and this would even further justify the public outcry. However, if it’s within the law, then perhaps certain actions or steps may be considered to be taken in as far as harmonizing the existing laws with the current situation. This may require some sort of legal reforms just to ensure that they speak to the reality or modern or current situations.
WN: Any last comment
TM Cash-gate cases ought to be treated with seriousness, especially when one factors in the economic and social ramifications the looting has left for the country. And the onus is now on this DPP-led government to prove that it can holistically deal with the vice without fear or favour. That should be the major post-election priority for the country.
CHRR;CEDEP DEMAND SWIFT INVESTIGATION INTO MEC WAREHOUSE ARSON
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (Cedep) have learnt with chock and suspicion news that Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) house in Lilongwe has been gutted down by fire. As CHRR and Cedep gather, the incident has destroyed 1,500 ballot boxes and other related electoral materials. This is no doubt an unfortunate reversal to the country’s hard-earned democracy.
Looking at the time of the event, CHRR and Cedep can’t help getting suspicious of some underhand machinations in the whole incident. All and sundry is aware that the warehouse was housing ballot papers which were---until the court injunction a couple of days ago--- ear-marked for a recount following the disputed parliamentary poll results in the Lilongwe City South East Constituency. As such, CHRR and Cedep expect nothing short of expeditious and thorough investigations into the matter. We expect the Police to exercise professionalism and integrity for good of the country when investigating the matter. Otherwise, fire has denied the constituents and Malawians in general the truth on who was the legitimate winner between the DPP’s hopeful his MCP counterpart.
Meanwhile, CHRR and Cedep call upon MEC to desist from rushing into describing the incident as normal. Such kind of a statement---coming from an institution like MEC-- can potentially thwart the quality of investigations into incident.
As recommendations, CHRR and Cedep are of the view that:
Let’s make a post 50 Malawi a true beacon of democracy, rule of law and human rights.
About CHRR and CEDEP
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) remains one of the leading human rights non-governmental organisations in Malawi. It was founded in February 1995 as a non-profit organization registered under the Trustees Incorporation Act of 1962. Since its inception CHRR has championed its work at national level, SADC level through the SADC Human Rights Defenders Network at which it sits in the board, continental level through the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights using its observer status, and at UN level through different UN mechanisms such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCR) and Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Centre for Development of the People (CEDEP) is a registered human rights organisation under the Trustees Incorporation Act of 1962. The organization was established in November 2005 in order to address the needs and challenges of minority groups in Malawi in the context of human rights, health and social development. CEDEP works also at international level using international mechanisms such as the African commission and UN mechanisms such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCR) and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
Timothy Mtambo Gift Trapence
Executive Director CHRR Executive Director CEDEP)
Cell: 0992166191 Cells: 0991573514
Issued on Wednesday, 16h July, 2014/Lilongwe
posted Monday, January 09, 2017
“A ride on a bumpy road” CHRR ASSESSMENT OF GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE IN 2016: A GOVERNANCE AND HUMAN RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE About CHRR Centre
posted Friday, September 23, 2016
~For Immediate Release UN/African Union: Reject ICC Withdrawal Security Council Meeting With AU (New York, September 22, 2016) – The African Union (AU),
posted Monday, May 30, 2016
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has renewed its call on Malawi government to domesticate the Rome Statute of