Malawi Law Society Defends Police Over HRDC Arrests

HRDC has been organizing protests like these since May which have sometimes turned violent.
10 March 2020

Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Burton Chidongondo Mhango has backed the Police action in arresting two leaders of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), Gift Trapence and MacDonald Sembereka, saying by declaring their plan publicly to seal State Residencesm which are protected, the activists flouted laws of the land.

HRDC and others, were planning a "citizen's electoral justice march" to the State House on 25 March aimed to pressure President Peter Mutharika to sign election reforms bills passed by parliament.

Law Society president said being human rights activists does not mean they are above the law, saying they need "not to be lawless in their conduct."

Said Mhango: "An attempt ti commit an offence is a crime and planning can lead to committing an offence. If someone was planning to seal State House that was reason enough to be picked."

Since last year's May election results, the HRDC has been organizing protests, which have sometimes turned violent.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said the plan amounted to incitement for unauthorized assembly.

"Basically, the charge is coming under Section 124 of the Penal Code that is of inciting people to seal state residences. In fact, we have in custody the two individuals. We will take them to court anytime soon," he said.

Kadadzera said police were also looking for HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo who remains "on the run."

Parliament in February passed the electoral reforms bills, which paves the way for fresh elections after the constitutional court nullified the May polls.

The court cited massive irregularities in the vote, which saw Mutharika re-elected.

The electoral bills propose a date for fresh elections and procedures to follow in case of runoffs.

Malawi's constitution gives the president 21 days to sign the bills into law. But, some activists, like the HRDC, and opposition parties worry Mutharika will drag out the process.

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