This page summarizes cases raised with Malawi by the Special Rapporteur between May 1, 2011, (when the Special Rapporteur took up his functions) and February 28, 2017 (the date of the last public release of communications). Communications are released to the public once per year. This page also contains observations on these communications and on responses received from Malawi.
Communications and observations are divided into sections based upon which observation report they originally appeared.
Each communication is referenced as urgent appeal (UA), allegation letter (AL), joint urgent appeal (JUA) and joint allegation letter (JAL) – the hyperlinks lead to these documents. This is followed by the date the communication was issued, as well as the case number and the State reply (also hyperlinked if available).
Summaries and communications are published only in the language of submission (in the case of Malawi, English).
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Malawi for the responses it transmitted in response to communications dated 5 August 2011 and 10 October 2011. He regrets that the authorities did not provide detailed explanation of the measures taken with regard to the allegation of excessive use of force during peaceful protests that have resulted in numerous loss of lives. He further regrets that the Government did not respond to the latter communication dated 19 October 2011. He urges the authorities to provide as soon as possible detailed responses to all the concerns raised in the latter communication.
The Special Rapporteur urges the authorities to refrain from using force during peaceful demonstrations. He reminds that the right to life is a non-derogable right in international human rights law, including in the context of assemblies. In this regard, he refers to Article 5 of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials Adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (1990), which provides that “whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life.” A thorough and independent investigation into any allegations of excessive use of force and of torture and ill treatment, including against women, during peaceful demonstrations, notably during those that occurred in July 2011 in the cities of Lilongwe, Karonga and Mzuzu, should be conducted; those responsible should be held accountable; and victims should be provided with full redress. He requests that the Government keep him informed about the investigations conducted in relation to the aforementioned case.
He further recommends to the Government to put in place an enabling and safe environment that is conducive to the free expression of civil society and political activists allowing individuals to exercise their legitimate freedom of association without undue hindrances. He calls upon to investigate into any allegations of any alleged human rights violations, including acts of intimidations or harassments, committed against those exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
The Special Rapporteur refers again to Human Rights Council resolution 15/21, and in particular operative paragraph 1 that “[c]alls upon States to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely, including in the context of elections, and including persons espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs, human rights defenders, trade unionists and others, including migrants, seeking to exercise or to promote these rights, and to take all necessary measures to ensure that any restrictions on the free exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law”.
The Special Rapporteur reminds the Government of Malawi of his country visit request sent in September 2011, to which a response is yet to be received. In this connection, OP6 of resolution 15/21 states that the “Human Rights Council… [c]alls upon States to cooperate fully with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his or her tasks, to provide all necessary information requested by him or her, … and to consider favourably his or her requests for visits”.
Responses to communications
The Special Rapporteur regrets that no response was received to date relating to the allegations contained in his communication indicating that members from two associations, Mr. MacDonald Sembereka of Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (MANERELA+) and Mr. Gift Trapence of Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), had been the victims of threats, intimidation and defamation while exercising their legitimate rights to associate and assemble. He considers responses to the questions raised in his communications as an important part of the cooperation of Governments with his mandate, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolutions 24/5 (2013), 21/16 (2012) and 15/21 (2010). In the absence of information to the contrary, the Special Rapporteur concludes that there is substance in the allegations presented in his communication
Environment in which these rights are exercised
The Special Rapporteur reiterates his grave concern about alleged threats and intimidation against Mr. MacDonald Sembereka, Mr. Gift Trapence and their respective organizations, as well as about their safety and that of their families. He fears that these violations may be occurring as a direct result of their legitimate human rights work and their exercise of the right to peaceful assembly and to freedom of opinion and expression, especially in the context of the 12 January 2015 assemblies. Furthermore, he is particular worried about the smear campaign directed against Mr. Sembereka and both MANERELA+ and CEDEP.
In relation to the alleged threat to deregister non-governmental organizations’ participating in the protests, he reminds the Government of the Malawi that the action to suspend or dissolve an association is one of the severest types of restrictions on freedom of association. Therefore, any such decision to suspend or dissolve an association should comply with international human rights law and standards, namely it should be guided by the principles of proportionality and necessity (A/HRC/20/27, paragraph 75).
He reiterates his recommendation to the Government to put in place an enabling and safe environment that is conducive to the free expression of civil society and political activists allowing individuals to exercise their legitimate freedom of association without undue hindrances. He calls upon the authorities of Malawi to investigate any allegations of human rights violations, including acts of intimidations or harassments, committed against those exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government for accepting his request to carry out a visit to Malawi, as per its letter of 16 January 2014. He sincerely hopes to revert back to the authorities in the briefest delays with a proposal for dates for this visit, within the framework of his other mandated activities, and reiterates his appreciation to the Government for its collaboration with the mandate.
For the full reports, containing communications, replies and observations for all countries, see the following links: