Police Criminal Probe Into Msundwe

Police say they have set up a six member criminal investigation team into the alleged human rights abuses including rape and defilement by officers at Msundwe in Lilongwe in October last year.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera told us this is their reaction to recommendations made by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) in its recent report.

He dismissed assertions that the police have launched yet another commission of inquiry into the matter.

"This is not a second inquiry as some are putting it, it’s a full criminal investigation that we have instituted paying due attention to the inquiry report by MHRC,” Kadadzera said.

There have been concerns that taking long to investigate the matter would lead to loss of evidence. But Kadadzera could not be drawn to specify the time frame given for this full criminal investigation.

"The team of investigators is at an advanced stage, and we hope it will be done in a professional manner and not bias," he said.

The criminal investigation is coming at a time, police is yet to make public it’s findings on the sexual assault allegations through a commission of inquiry instituted by acting Police Inspector General Duncan Mwapasa.

However the police spokesperson said the police commission of inquiry is expected to issue its report soon.

Recently, acting Police Inspector General Mwapasa warned that he will not shield any officers found to be on the wrong side of the law.

But legal expert Chrispine Sibande doubts if the police is independent enough to probe the matter in its present state.

Said Sibande, “We should remember that this not the first issue that has concerned the police in our country. It has been not easy for the police to discharge their duties professionally because there has been too much interference in police work.”

Sibande, a human rights lawyer, suggests change in laws governing Malawi Police Service to improve its operations.

“The laws guiding operations of police in the country are very weak, unless we amend our laws to strengthen police work, it will be difficult for the law enforcers to discharge their work professionally.”

In its December report on the Msundwe saga, MHRC revealed that police officers acted against the law by among others raping women, defiling girls and destroyed people’s property.

MHRC Commissioner Martha Chizuma is on quoted as saying that police investigations cannot establish anything contrary to their findings.

On 8 October, angry community members closed the Lilongwe-Mchinji road at Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu with the aim of preventing people traveling from Mchinji to a presidential function in Lilongwe.

One of the police officers sent to quell the situation there was stoned to death, provoking the men in uniform to retaliate with violence.

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