Press briefing note on Malawi
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Date: 4 September 2018
We are concerned about an increasing number of threats and intimidation against human rights defenders and activists in Malawi, with several incidents reported over the past few weeks, including against women, ahead of next year’s general elections.
On 30 August 2018, a group of men attacked the offices of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in the capital city of Lilongwe asking for its Executive Director, Timothy Mtambo. The men reportedly demanded Mtambo’s home address and beat up a guard, who was left with broken teeth and in need of medical treatment. Later the same evening, a petrol bomb was thrown at the gate of the offices, causing an extensive fire. The incident is particularly worrying as it is reminiscent of a similar pattern of violence against the Centre that occurred in 2011 – a year marked with heightened attacks against civil society.
Several members of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition have also reportedly been intimidated and threatened over the past few weeks. In Zomba, in southern Malawi, thugs went to the house of one human rights defender last week demanding to see him in a threatening manner. The Executive Director of Youth and Society, Charles Kajoloweka, received death threats after his NGO issued an anti-corruption press statement on 24 August. This is not the first time he has received death threats on account of his work. He has made a police complaint, but we understand that there have been no protection measures put in place for him.
We are also concerned about an emerging pattern of threats and violence against women Members of Parliament and electoral candidates. One female MP’s car was torched in Mangochi in the south of the country in August, while another was blocked from entering parliament in April and faced further intimidation and threats over the past two months.
We urge the authorities to ensure that attacks and threats against human rights defenders are thoroughly investigated and that the crucial work carried out by civil society actors is protected, in line with the Government’s international human rights obligations. It is particularly important in a pre-electoral context that an enabling environment is created for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville – +41 22 917 9767 / email@example.com or Liz Throssell – + 41 22 917 9466 / firstname.lastname@example.org or Ravina Shamdasani – + 41 22 917 9169 / email@example.com
2018 is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.