Human Rights activists in Malawi have petitioned the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate and prosecute Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima for violation of human rights in Malawi.
In the petition addressed to The Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC and to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, the human rights activists detail the violence which Chakwera, Chilima and HRDC led by Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence have incited and the damage it has caused on Malawians since the elections on 21 May 2019.
“We write this letter to you to inform the ICC and the rest of the world that the acts of violence and direct and indirect human rights abuses are escalating in Malawi in the guise of exercising human
rights,” reads the letter dated 31 July 2019.
The petitioners ask the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to investigate the conduct and culpability on crimes against humanity of Mtambo, Chakwera, Chilima and Trapence.
The petition details how Malawi Congress President Reverend Chakwera triggered post-election violence on 22 May 2019 when he accused the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) of delaying announcing the election results and then declaring he was prepared to shed blood if the results did not go in his favour.
Since then Chakwera, Chilima and HRDC have teamed up in organizing demonstrations to press for the resignation of MEC chair Justice Jane Ansah allegedly for mismanaging Presidential results of the elections.
The petitioners argue that while Chakwera, Chilima, Mtambo and Trapence have the backing of the Malawi Constitution on the right to conduct demonstration, they have been selective in the use of this right and they have used it to abuse the human rights of other Malawians.
The Constitution of Malawi provides that
“Every person shall have the right to assemble and demonstrate with others peacefully and unarmed.”
The demonstrations which Chakwera, Chilima, Mtambo and Trapence have been convening have been characterised by coordinated violence and participants are armed with pangas, stones and petrol bombs.
“Since the election period, Malawi has seen a rise in political violence by the Opposition supporters particularly in central and northern regions of Malawi which has been targeting people of other regions, tribes and supporters of other parties different from theirs,” reads the petition.
The eleven activists also report that the “violence is coordinated in a way that it increases hate of a particular tribe and people from other regions and political parties”.
“Furthermore, there is a lot of media clips urging killing of people of different regions and supporters of the ruling party,” it reads.
The petition cites 14 cases of crimes against humanity committed through the demonstration. The cases include beating of political opponents, burning, demolishing and looting of personal, private and government property, displacement of citizens, attacking and undressing women, killing of children, utterance of hate speech, illegal occupation of Capital Hill, destruction of businesses and property of the International community, torching of Police stations and beating up and chasing police officers assigned to maintain peace and order during the demonstrations.
The activists express concern that both Chakwera and Chilima have not condemned acts of violence and ethnic hate speech perpetrated by their followers.
They say HRDC individuals are disguising themselves as human rights activists while being “fronted by the two main opposition political parties to subvert democracy and lead the regime change agenda.”
Prior to the election, there leaked an audio clip of a conversation between Mtambo and Chakwera plotting to destabilize the country. The petitioners argue that plot is instructive of the violence taking place today in Malawi.
“What has been happening in the country post the elections is exactly what was discussed in the audio between the two,” they say.
The activists observe that Chakwera, Chilima, Mtambo and Trapence have adopted an extrajudicial and unconstitutional method of electoral dispute settlement as a way to defeat the pursuit of justice of the election case which is already in court.
They argue that the four are usurping the power of the court as in Malawi, it is only the courts have the Constitutional mandate and powers to resolve disputes emanating from the electoral process.
“Currently there is an ongoing campaign of violence and hate while the matter is being heard in court. We have reasonable belief that the four have no respect of Malawi’s Court, and they are
using violent protest to defeat the pursuit of justice…,” reads the petition.
The activsts ask the ICC to investigate and prosecute the four to prevent them from making Malawi another Rwanda.
“There is a potential of tribal and regional conflict which will escalate if these plans are not stopped. We have another Rwanda Genocide in making in Malawi and the people behind it are naively promoting it.
“We therefore invite the ICC to come to Malawi and investigate as they did in Burundi and other countries,” they conclude.
Malawi adopted multi-party democracy in 1992 and this was the fifth general election since then. While there have protests in the immediate aftermath of the previous elections, this has been the most violent post election period in Malawi.
However, the election was certified free, fair and credible by 14 election observer organizations, 9 of which were local ones. Two of the local organizations operated independent parralel voter tabulation centres and both agreed with MEC result that President Peter Mutharika won the presidential election.