Malawi: Rights Lawyer Says Police Cannot Investigate Themselves Over Msundwe Rape

A line of police tape at a shooting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at night.
6 January 2020

A prominent human rights lawyer has doubted the Malawi Police Service (MPS) will be able to investigate its own officers over serious allegations of rape at Msundwe in Lilongwe two months ago.

Sibande: The police are not discharging their duties properly

Police says it has deployed six top-notch investigators to conduct full criminal investigations against some of its officers alleged to have sexually assaulted women and girls at Msundwe, M'bwatalika and Mpingu in Lilongwe.

Renowned human rights lawyer Chrispine Sibande says the police officers will only be able to investigate themselves after an amendment to the police Act.

"The police are not discharging their duties properly. They cannot investigate themselves over these serious allegations. There is need to change the police Act," said Sibande.

Sibande said this after the police issued a statement saying they have instituted criminal investigation into the allegations following a damming report by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) on the matter which found that 17 police officers allegedly raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually assaulted three under-18 girls during their October 8 2019 operation in the area.

The criminal investigation comes into action before the police have released a report on the commission of inquiry which the acting police Inspector General Duncan Mwapasa instituted two months ago.

Some Malawians have taken up in various social media platforms to blame the police for employing dillying tactics on the matter, saying the police are simply shielding the police rape perpetrators.

In a statement dated January 4 2020, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera says the investigations are paying due attention to the MHRC inquiry report, reports both in the social and mainstream media and testimonies from survivors and witnesses.

Reads the statement: "The Malawi Police Service wishes to inform the nation that full criminal investigations into alleged cases of sexual abuse by police officers at Msundwe, M'bwatalika, and Mpingu commenced on December 31 2019.

"A team of six senior police investigators from across the country is at an advanced stage of the investigations. Police management is confident that these criminal investigations will be conducted in a professional manner and without bias."

The country's powerful donors and development partners including the UN and EU have asked the state to swiftly prosecute the perpetrators.

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