Tuesday, August 2, 2011

NGO's And Civil Society Call For ICC Investigations and Prosecution On July 20 Killings


1st  August,  2011/Lilongwe Malawi

Press Statement

The Civil Society Organizations in Malawi which organized the 20th July 2011 national demonstration would like to make a special call to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague to investigate and possibly prosecute His Excellency Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Hon Aaron Sangala and Inspector General Of Police, Peter Mukhitho for crimes against humanity in respect to the death of 18 people and serious wounding hundreds of unarmed innocent people during the nationwide demonstration. This request is in line with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Article 5 (1) (b).  

We strongly submit that the arbitrary killing of the 18 unarmed demonstrators at the hands of the police is an indication of the unacceptable failure and negligence in our Police System in their duty to safeguarding the lives Malawians as enshrined in the Malawi constitution.

The Malawi Constitution in section 16 guarantees that “….every person has the right to life and no person shall be arbitrary deprived of his or her life….”

The same constitution of Malawi squarely puts the responsibility to safeguard and protect the lives and property of Malawians on the police.
Besides, section 153(1) of the Malawi constitution provides for “…….the protection of public safety and the rights of persons in Malawi according to the prescriptions …” of the same.

The organizing committee therefore fails to comprehend as to where the Police got the mandate to shoot and maim unarmed demonstrators, the very same people it is mandated to protect at all cost.
It is even more disturbing to note that even when the High Court in Lilongwe had lifted the court injunction restraining the demonstrations, some overzealous police officer went ahead to use force and live bullets to shoot at unarmed and peaceful demonstrators. This in direct contrast with the provision of the Malawi constitution which provides in Section 153(3)  that “….in the exercise of their functions, members of the Malawi Police Service shall be subject to the direction of the courts and shall be bound by such orders of the courts….’

Contrary to this the Malawi Police service went ahead to detain, beat up severely leaders of the Civil Society Organizations, Political Party Leaders and journalists injuring Isaac Kambwiri and Amos Gumulira journalists working for the Capital Radio and The Nation Newspaper respectively.
Besides, just to vindicate our fears that the police is being used to perpetrate crimes against humanity, the Commander-in-Chief of the Malawi Police who is also the Sate President said-just two days after the killing of the 18 civilians during the pass out parade of police officer cadets-that he will ‘smoke out’ and deal with all those that organized the 20 July demonstrations.

Malawians especially those that have a contrary view to the ideas being advanced by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led government have become a target of either the police of the DPP youth militias.
Innocent lives have been lost, people continue to live in constant fear of their lives and there is no any assuring words whatsoever from those that we have entrusted with protecting us to protection. The organizers of the 20 July have gone into hiding in fear of their lives.
Notwithstanding the above, we are of the view that the above account clearly constitutes crimes against humanity as provided in article 7 (1) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court proscribing the following:

 (a) Murder; (18 have so far been confirmed dead)

(e)  Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;

(f)  Torture;

(k)  Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to 
body or to mental or physical health.

Government through the Presidency or Ministry of Home affairs and Internal security have either come in the open to either accept responsibility nor  apologize nor offer some sort of compensation to the lives they arbitrary took from innocent people. Regrettably the Malawi Police Services themselves have issued a statement indicating that they only shot “looters” and they will not be investigating their own officers when they were duly carrying out their protective mandate.

Five days after the killings, wounding, there is neither any talk of instituting an independent investigation to “smoke out” whoever was directly or indirectly involved in shooting innocent people and possibly bring them to book. This only underlines that fact that, in the face of government, the innocent lives lost during the 20 July demonstrations is nothing but just a another statistic. It is also clear that there is unwillingness to investigate and prosecute the police officers who killed the innocent civilians which in accordance with article 17 of the Rome Statute clearly shows satisfaction of the admissibility issues and merits the intervention of the ICC.

Finally, we are also concerned of more violence as reprisals by the government through arbitrary arrests and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) youth cadets who the president called upon to protect him against those who criticize him. In line with all this, the Cadets have been issuing threats to people including riding a four-vehicle-convoy on the eve of the demonstration in the city of Blantyre brandishing machetes whilst singing that they will deal with anyone who criticize the president and government. The President and his ministers have also spoken of the need to “punish” the organizers of the demonstration and President Muthalika warned that NGO leaders will be “smoked out” of their hiding places including from their houses or caves. This shows a regime which is hatching plans to crack down on those who prepared the demonstration as well as those who participated.

In view of this the undersigned, therefore would like to call upon the ICC to come in and institute and investigation, prosecute and bring to book all relevant authorities who failed in their duties to safeguard the lives of the 18 people who died at the hand of the Police Service as well as 41 people who remained admitted in hospital.   We have also attached various photos showing the events of July 20 as well as clearly showing the brutality of the Malawi Police Services.

Endorsed by:-
The Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC)
The Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU)
The Public Affairs Committee (PAC)
Church and Society, Livingstonia Synod
Church and Society – Nkhoma Synod
Civic and Political Space Platform
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)
Centre for Development of People (CEDEP)

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