UN Human Rights Committee to examine Malawi today

The United Nations Human Rights Committee will meet for its 103rd session today. The Human Rights Committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties. All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially one year after acceding to the Covenant and then whenever the Committee requests (usually every four years). The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations”. The Government of Malawi has not submitted a written report on its human rights record in respect of its obligation to implement the provisions of the ICCPR. Despite the lack of a report the Committee will review its record with a government delegation traveling from Malawi headed by the Attorney General.  The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is an international treaty that outlines a set of fundamental rights guaranteed to all individuals regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, opinion, nation, property, birth or other status. The ICCPR was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. So far, 166 states, including the Government of Malawi, are parties to the Covenant. The Human Rights Committee is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the treaty by States Parties. Additionally, the 18-member committee also has the authority to interpret the treaty through issuing general comments.

In the absence of a state report, the Committee will consider information submitted by non-governmental organizations including the Centre of Development of People (CEDEP), the Centre of Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

Read the full text of NGO Shadow Report on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The shadow report highlights what is says are human rights violations which have been committed by the State of Malawi. Some areas it has highlighted include:

  • On 20th and 21st July 2011, the Malawi security forces killed eighteen unarmed individuals who were attempting to exercise their right to peacefully assemble in opposition to the government.
  • There have been complaints of torture in numerous police stations across Malawi. While NGOs and lawyers periodically access and monitor detention facilities, they are powerless to influence the treatment of the individuals incarcerated.
  • The President’s Administration attempts to distract attention from its failure to respect the rule of law by blaming vulnerable groups, including LGBT people.
  • There is a sustained attack on press freedom in Malawi. During the 19th and 20th of July 2011 demonstrations, a total of twenty-two journalists were beaten and assaulted by the Malawi Police Service.

In addition the shadow report offers eighteen recommendations for actions that should be taken to bring the State of Malawi in compliance with its treaty obligations. Those recommendations include the right to peaceful assembly, the right to fair trial, the right to free speech, the need to decriminalize homosexuality, the need for equal rights between men and women, and the need to conduct immediate and impartial investigations into the July 2011 attacks on civilians and journalist.

For more information about the work of the Human Rights Committee, read the Civil and Political Rights: The Human Rights Committee fact sheet.

By Sonya Donnelly BL, Programme Lawyer with Malawi Project.

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