Gay Malawi News & Reports 2011

1 LGBT Africans Face Blackmail and Extortion on a Regular Basis 2/11

2 Nations pledge movement on LGBT issues at UN 3/11

2a Malawi inmates charged of sodomy, priest against homophobia 4/11

2b Malawi Government Targets NGOs Working for LGBTI Human Rights 4/11

2c Malawi NGOs dispel govt’s gay ‘propaganda’ 4/11

2d Media Clips on the NGO Debate on Gay Rights in Malawi 5/11

3 Queer Malawi lifts the gay curtain 5/11

4 Former Presidents Condemn Malawi’s Gay Rights Stance 5/11

5 Nowhere to Turn 6/11

5a FRC: Pray For Malawi’s Laws Criminalizing Gay Sex 7/11

6 Malawi: Calls For Investigation Into Protest Violence 7/11

7 Open Society Hosts Meeting Of LGBT Activists From So. Africa 8/11

7a NGOs Expose Grave Human Rights Violations Exposed in Malawi 10/11

8 Lack of Cooperation with UN Raises Concerns About Human Rights 10/11

February 15, 2011 – Human Rights Watch

LGBT Africans Face Blackmail and Extortion on a Regular Basis
– Homophobic Laws and Social Stigma to Blame

(Johannesburg) Antiquated laws against same-sex sexual activity as well as deeply ingrained social stigma result in the all-too-frequent targeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Africa for blackmail and extortion, said the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) in a report launched today.

The report, Nowhere to Turn: Blackmail and Extortion of LGBT People in Sub-Saharan Africa, illustrates how LGBT Africans are made doubly vulnerable by the criminalization of homosexuality and the often-violent stigmatization they face if their sexuality is revealed. Based on research from 2007 to the present, the volume features articles and research by leading African activists and academics on the prevalence, severity and impact of these human rights violations on LGBT people in Cameroon, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.

"The tragic reality is that blackmail and extortion are part of the daily lives of many LGBT Africans who are isolated and made vulnerable by homophobic laws and social stigma," says IGLHRC’s Executive Director, Cary Alan Johnson. "The responsibility clearly lies with governments to address these crimes and the underlying social and legal vulnerability of LGBT people."

The report’s authors vividly depict the isolation, humiliation and manipulation to which LGBT people are subjected by blackmailers and extortionists and describe the threats of exposure, theft, assault, and rape, that can damage and even destroy the lives of victims. Vulnerability to these crimes is faced on a regular basis and families and communities are not safe havens. For example, according to research conducted in Cameroon and featured in the report, "the bulk of blackmail and extortion attempts were committed by other members of the community – 33.9% by neighbors, 11.8% by family members, 11.5% by classmates, and 14.1% by homosexual friends. Police were often complicit in this – either by ignoring or dismissing it or, in 11.5% of cases, directly perpetrating it."

Nowhere to Turn explores the role the State plays in these crimes by ignoring blackmail and extortion carried out by police and other officials by failing to prosecute blackmailers, and by charging LGBT victims under sodomy laws when they do find the courage to report blackmail to the authorities. IGLHRC urges States to take concrete steps to reduce the incidence of these crimes by decriminalizing same-sex sexual activity, educating officials and communities about blackmail laws, and ensuring that all people are able to access judicial mechanisms without prejudice.

A PDF version of Nowhere to Turn is available here. To obtain a hard copy of the volume, email

For more information, please contact:

Chivuli Ukwimi (IGLHRC, in Cape Town)
(27) 79-443-3938 – email

Jessica Stern (IGLHRC, in New York)
(+1) 212-430-6014 – email

Sam Cook (IGLHRC, in Johannesburg)

March 29, 2011 – Bay Windows

Nations pledge movement on LGBT issues at UN Human Rights Council

by Rex Wockner – Bay Windows Contributor
As the United Nations Human Rights Council continued its periodic review sessions on various nations, several developments took place this month. Mongolia’s representatives accepted recommendations that the nation address issues of violence against LGBT people. Panama accepted a recommendation to synchronize its national laws with the norms of "The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity," which were drawn up at a 2006 meeting in Indonesia by human-rights experts from around the world. Honduras agreed to review its national laws to ensure that LGBT human rights are not abridged. And Jamaica agreed to provide enforcement officials with sensitivity training on matters of sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV.

At the same time, representatives of four nations — Lebanon, Malawi, Maldives, and Mauritania — rejected recommendations that they decriminalize gay sex. In January at the Human Rights Council, São Tomé and Príncipe said it will legalize gay sex by June, and Nauru said it also plans to decriminalize homosexuality. The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review officially analyzes the human-rights record of each of the 192 U.N. member nations on a rotating basis once every four years, and urges reviewed nations to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

April 18, 2011 – Nyasa Times

Malawi inmates charged of sodomy, priest against homophobia

by Judith Moyo, Nyasa Times
Anglican cleric, Rev Mac Donald Semebereka has said the media should enlighten the society on issues of sexual orientation as regards to human rights saying the country should not slide into a homophobic nation where gays and lesbians are hounded.
“A nation that promotes homophobia is a lost nation,” said Rev Sembeleka on Joy Radio.

Sembereka who is also a human rights and HIV/Aids activist said the issues of same-sex relationships is bordering on human rights and has a bearing in the fight against the deadly Aids. He said, men who sleep with fellow men and women who sleep with fellow women, should not be discriminated under the law. The cleric said gays and lesbians need respect equality and fairness. “We should not pretend as if we don’t have lesbians and homosexuals in Malawi,” said Sembeleka.

He Anglican priest said although Malawi is a God fearing country, there should be a way where government and churches can come up with a solution on how to deal with the situation. Meanwhile, published reports indicate that a convicted prisoner was “found with sperms on his anus,” hinting that he was being sodomised by a fellow prisoner at Zomba Maximum Prison. Zomba police spokesman Thomeck Nyaude confirmed that a 19-year-old Stanley Kanthukako and Stephano Kalimbakatha, 22, were having anal sex in prison. They would be charged with sodomy, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in Malawi.

Nyaude told The Nation that the two wrote love letters to each other while in prison, Stanley is serving a five-year term burglary term, while Stephano is expected to spend seven years in jail for robbery. Last year, Malawi convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison the country’s first openly gay couple for practicing homosexuality. It took UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to convince Malawi’s president Bingu wa Mutharika, to pardon the couple. Rights activists say there is need to change the country’s penal code which outlaws the practice. They say the country’s new constitution adopted in 1995 doesn’t discriminate against anyone but recognises the rights of all.

April 19, 2011 – African Activist

Malawi Government Targets NGOs Working for LGBTI Human Rights

In less than 20 days after the United States unfroze $350 million in foreign aid to Malawi, the government is claiming that Norwegian and Dutch funding of NGOs working for LGBTI human rights is "being used by external forces to destabilize the government…These are the people who are being used as agents from the government’s enemies." Information and Civic Education Minister Vuwa Kaunda and Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Dr George Chaponda handed the media a document with information about the donations. The government is targeting two NGOs specifically: Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP).

The Nyasa Times reports:
Malawi government has handed over a document to the media which outlines the NGOs three year project aimed at raising awareness on Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) with the funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the Dutch government. The document which was handed over by Minister of Information and Civic Education Vuwa Kaunda, indicates that the two organizations, Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Center for the Development of People (CEDEP) will jointly run a project from 2010-2011 which will see them training media and support LGBT people in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Ministers Vuwa Kaunda, Chaponda and presidential spokesman Hetherwick Ntaba Vuwa was accompanied at the news conference by Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Dr George Chaponda. The MK99, 400 000 (US$700 000) will also lobby for policy and legal changes, train media and support LGBT people to fight HIV/AIDS and promote LGBT human rights as a way to find a long lasting solution to address the problem of discrimination, stigmatization and criminalization of homosexuality in the country.

“CHRR and CEDEP will be holding a national conference, whose theme would be ‘LGBT also have Rights, lets include them in the fight against HIV/AIDS’ intended to help set a road map based on views and issues to be raised at the conference. We will take a human rights angle which is more holistic approach to the matter in that it raises more rights and welfare issues for the LGBT,” reads part of the project signed by Undule Mwakasungula, CHRR Executive Director and Gift Trapence the CEDEP Director.

Mwakasungula, who is currently training journalists on the same in Machinga at Hippo View Lodge, refused to comment on the issue when contacted. The document further indicates, in the introduction that they will carry out the planned activities which shall include capacity building, training, policy advocacy and lobbying, media outreach, materials production, research and dissemination. “CHRR and CEDEP would require funds amounting to MK99 400 000 (US$ 700, 000) and we kindly ask the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the Dutch government to support the cause,” reads the document.

Read article

April 26, 2011 – Nyasa Times

Malawi NGOs dispel govt’s gay ‘propaganda’

by Nyasa Times
Three NGO’s have criticised the approach by the Malawi Government to respond to concerns about the current state of human rights, good governance and also reacted to government’s ‘propaganda’ on homosexuality.
The NGOs -Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) and Malawi Religious Leaders Living and Affected by HIV and Aids (MANERELA+) – said they were concerned with government’s “derogatory language, threatening remarks, deliberate propaganda to mislead the general public, and twisting of facts about concerns being presented by civil society and other stakeholders.”

In a media statement made available to Nyasa Times, CHRR’s Undule Mwakasungula, CEDEP’s Gift Treparence and MANERELA’s Rev MacDonald Sembereka urged government not to waste time in spin doctoring but to take heed of the issues repeatedly raised by civil society, faith community, media groups, national institutions, academic experts, political groups, donors and members of the general public. The NGO leaders noted that “some government officials have championed in diverting the general public from the issues of concern and instead embark on castigating and threatening those who have raised the issues or defend the obviously concerning state of affairs, without providing any alternative on how the Government would address the issues.

“At times, this counterproductive approach has brought embarrassment to the government and question on its competence to address national issues or crises.” The activists said they were pleased when President Bingu wa Mutharika pledged to continue to adhere to democratic principles and good governance on 7th April, 2011 during the signing of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) pact but called on the President to ensure that his Government “exclusively promote and respect good governance and human rights and address all concerns repeatedly and consistently raised by the different stakeholders.”

The statement said: “Any contrary rhetoric by some government officials sends conflicting messages to the populace, as to whether the Government is really committed to addressing issues that are negatively affecting the people.” They also called on government and presidential spokespersons to provide professional, responsible and constructive response to concerns raised by stakeholders or the general public. “We further feel that these spokespersons need to illustrate competent understanding of the relationship between concerns raised and good governance and/or human rights in Malawi instead of promoting empty rhetoric as they have always done,” said the statement.

They noted with concerns that government spokesman Symon Vuwa Kaunda and presidential spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba and other government officials, have appeared in the media castigating and threatening stakeholders that speak against discrimination against sexual minorities in Malawi. “In these media outbursts, they have twisted concerns and issues, telling the nation that some organisations are being ‘bribed’ to bring unacceptable alien practices into Malawi. “For example, CEDEP and CHRR have been accused promoting self interests in order to try to bring same sex marriage into Malawi. Further, the two organisations have also been accused of receiving MK99 Million from the Norwegian and Dutch government on a deal to promote same sex marriages in Malawi.

“It’s important to note that the issue of sexual minorities is perhaps the issue that Government has used the most to promote propaganda and misrepresentation in order to divert attention to the real issues or concerns being presented and affecting the country currently for the purpose of gaining sympathy,” reads the statement. “We would like to challenge the Government that their empty political rhetoric that same sex relations are inexistent in Malawi is contrary to what their principles and technocrats state. Firstly; we would like to challenge government that the issue of sexual minorities is not new to them as there is documented evidence that the Malawi Government has previously participated on this issue at the United Nation’s level.

“Men having Sex with men (MSM) are also recognised in the Malawi National HIV and AIDS Action Framework (2010 to 212), where government promises to address issues of HIV and AIDS among these groups,” reads the statement. The NGOs pointed out that technocrats from Mutharika administration have previously publicly affirmed the importance of targeting people who practice same sex practices in the HIV and AIDS response.

09 May, 2011 – MSM Global Forum

Media Clips on the NGO Debate on Gay Rights in Malawi

Gay rights not a priority

Gay rights not a priority 2

Suspect on Undule threats arrested

NGOs Divide 1

NGOs Divide 2

May 11, 2011 –

Queer Malawi lifts the gay curtain

Johannesburg, South Africa (IRIN) – Africa is generally not a safe place to have a same-sex relationship – you can be shunned by society, beaten up, thrown in jail, or worse. In Malawi you can get years in prison with hard labor. In a bold move, Malawi’s Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) and South Africa’s Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) have collected the stories of 12 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) women and men and published them in a book, Queer Malawi. The book was compiled in the shadow of the high-profile 2010 trial of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, two Malawian men charged with sodomy and indecency after they became engaged to be married in December 2009. The couple were found guilty but later released on condition that they have no further contact.

Fear is a theme that runs through the stories in Queer Malawi – fear of not being accepted by family and community, of violence and arrest. Human rights activists noted that the trial heightened anxiety in Malawi’s underground LGBT community and compromised HIV prevention efforts among men who have sex with men (MSM). “There is the painful story of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, who were arrested because they were very much in love,” wrote “Shy Amanda”, a gay man using a pseudonym, as do the other authors in Queer Malawi. “My boyfriend and I… are afraid to stay together – we only visit on weekends. When I see a policeman passing by my home I fear that maybe today they are coming to take me.”

Many African countries, including Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi, have banned same-sex relationships, with the legislation sometimes being interpreted so as to leave individuals without adequate protection by the law and open to beatings and arrests. In the case of lesbians, such legislation has sometimes led to “corrective rape”, in which men rape lesbians in the violently mistaken belief that this will “turn them straight”.

HIV/AIDS outreach
A foreword penned by the Coalition of African Lesbians provides a context for the stories in Queer Malawi and insight into the complex dynamics in the LGBT community, including the divisions between its men and women. Africa’s lesbian, bisexual and transgender women remain largely invisible, and the activism and funds for addressing their needs, especially those related to health, are slight in comparison with the money allocated to assisting MSM.
The complex underlying dynamics of aid and HIV often influence advocacy of the LGBT community’s needs. In a highly politicized and often deeply religious context, funders and managers often link outreach program to this population to human rights and health.

Gay, bisexual and transgender men have been at greater risk of contracting HIV through anal sex, and many funders and programs identify them as a priority group, despite cries from the lesbian community that their low risk of HIV does not mean they are at no risk, especially with a rising level of corrective rape. Lesbian women find it hard to stand together, because we do not have any resources or an organization that represents us,” wrote Takia. “There is one organization that does education for gays – they only support men loving men.”

After the international publicity of the Malawi court case, even HIV prevention programming aimed at MSM was compromised, as this group went further underground out of fear of arrest, CEDEP said. The 12 voices heard in Queer Malawi all tell a love story – young love; unrequited love, heartache and acceptance of ourselves and the often rocky terrain that is love. The book also aims to dispel the negative stereotypes often attached to homosexuals. These are business owners, church-goers and breadwinners; women who move outside of gender norms, men who strive to portray positive male role models to their children, including HIV-positive orphans in their care.

The book is not without unsettling aspects. Multiple concurrent partnerships – a driver of HIV infection in southern Africa – and cross-generational sex feature in almost half the stories. Two of the 12 writers recall that their first sexual experience was with a family member. At the book’s launch in December 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa, GALA and CEDEP indicated their intention to release the book in Malawi, but IRIN/PlusNews was unable to ascertain from GALA whether this had occurred. For more information on Queer Malawi, go to

May 25, 2011 – African Activist

Former Presidents of Botswana and Zambia Condemn Malawi’s Gay Rights Stance

Festus Mugae and Kenneth Kaunda, former Presidents of Botswana and Zambia, are on their HIV Free Generation tour in some African countries. At a news conference in Lilongwe they condemned Malawi’s criminalisation of homosexuality as harmful to LGBTI persons and the fight against HIV/AIDS. "We can preach about behavioral change, but as long as we confine gays and lesbians into dark corners because of our inflexibility to accomodate them, the battle on HIV and AIDS can never be won," said Mugae, who is the chairperson of the Champions of HIV Free Generation.

On his part, Kaunda urged all African leaders to start recognizing same sex marriage. Said Kaunda: "We are not only condemning African leaders who are criminalizing same sex marriage, but we are urging them to start recognising these people, for the sake of HIV and AIDS." Kaunda and Mugae’s condemnation comes amidst the heated debate between government and religious leaders on one hand and some civil society organizations on another hand on whether the country should embrace same sex marriages.

Malawi civil society organisations Centre for Development of People (CEDEP), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Malawi Religious Leaders Living and Affected by HIV and Aids (Manerela+) have recently challenged statements by religious and government leaders. In the BBC Debate in Johannesburg last March, Is Homosexuality Un-African?, former Botswana President Festus Mogae was clear that not only was homosexuality African but that LGBTI persons are worthy of human rights. Last February, Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika signed a bill into law that criminalised sex between women.

June 2011 – IGLHRC

Nowhere to Turn

New York – In January 2011, IGLHRC released the report, Nowhere to Turn: Blackmail and Extortion of LGBT People in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report, already well-received by organizations across Africa, illustrates how LGBT Africans are made doubly vulnerable by the criminalization of homosexuality and the often-violent stigmatization they face if their sexuality is revealed. Based on research from 2007 to the present, the volume features articles and research by leading African activists and academics on the prevalence, severity and impact of these human rights violations on LGBT people in Cameroon, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.

Read the complete 140-page report: Nowhere to Turn: Blackmail and Extortion of LGBT People in Sub-Saharan Africa.

July 07, 2011 – On Top Magazine

FRC: Pray For Malawi’s Laws Criminalizing Gay Sex

by On Top Magazine Staff
The Christian conservative group Family Research Council (FRC) has asked supporters to pray for Malawi’s laws criminalizing gay sex, reported. Same-sex relationships in the African country are illegal and offenders face up to five years imprisonment, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Earlier this year, the United States backed a non-binding United Nations resolution condemning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cheered passed of the resolution in the 47-member Human Rights Council. Obama called the resolution’s passage a “significant milestone in the long struggle for [LGBT] equality.” “This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and who they love,” Clinton said.

While the measure was backed by representatives from the European Union, Brazil and other Latin American countries, African and Islamic countries condemned the resolution, saying it had “nothing to do with fundamental rights.” The FRC asked people to pray for countries, in particular Malawi, where gay sex has been criminalized. Under the headline Pushing Homosexuality at Home and Abroad, the FRC writes: “The U.S. government has become the chief player in efforts to promote homosexuality and homosexual rights oversees.”

And then the group offers a prayer: “May God restrain the Obama administration from promoting the LGBT agenda at home and abroad. May He give targeted nations courage to withstand U.S. coercion! Forgive us for this evil.”

22 July 2011 – IGLHRC

Malawi: Calls For Investigation Into Protest Violence

The Government of Malawi must launch an immediate investigation into the deaths of at least 18 protestors during recent demonstrations across the country, a group of leading human rights organisations[1] said in a letter today.

“In the midst of widespread dissatisfaction with the lack of good governance and the rule of law in Malawi, the government is attempting to divert the country’s attention by scapegoating the struggling LGBT community,” said executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) Cary Alan Johnson. “This is an old and worn-out strategy, but movements for social and economic justice in Malawi aren’t fooled. LGBT rights are women’s rights, are poor people’s rights, are prisoner’s rights and are human rights. We all stand together.”

At least eight people were shot and killed by security forces during demonstrations on July 20 in the northern city of Mzuzu, where over 44 people, including six children, have been treated for gunshot wounds at the city’s Central Hospital. Other protestors were killed after police used teargas on demonstrators in Lilongwe, the capital, and Blantyre. At least eight journalists were beaten by security forces during the demonstrations on July 20, and the Government has attempted to prevent private media outlets from reporting on the protests. Human rights activists in the country have been arrested.

The Government has attempted to block the protests using legal channels, and supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party have reportedly intimidated and threatened protestors. President Bingu wa Mutharika appealed for calm in a radio address yesterday, but hinted at a fiercer crackdown on protestors. The army has reportedly been deployed in Lilongwe and Blantyre. Human rights organisations are calling on the Government of Malawi to investigate the use of force by security forces which has resulted in the deaths of protestors. They also call for the government to protect protestors, including human rights activists, from violence, and to allow journalists to carry out their work freely and to report on the demonstrations.

Demonstrations have taken place in towns and cities across Malawi in recent days, sparked by fuel and foreign exchange reserve shortages, high unemployment, and repressive laws passed by parliament. UN policing guidelines state that security forces may only use force when strictly necessary, to the extent required for the performance of their duty, and that the intentional lethal use of firearms is only permissible when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

Media Contacts:
Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director: +1 347 515 0330 or email.
Jessica Stern, Director of Programs: +1 646 549 0130 or email.

August 19th, 2011 – Behind The Mask

Open Society Hosts Meeting Of LGBT Activists From Southern Africa

The Open Society Initiatives for Southern Africa (OSISA) has just concluded a three day meeting in Johannesburg for LGBT activists from 13 regional countries. During the meeting participants were asked to form three groups (Lesbians /Bisexual women/WSW, Gay/Bisexual/ MSM and Transgender /FTM/MTF/Non conforming) to identify the problems faced by each group regarding HIV/Aids. Most of the groups shared the same sentiments such as legal framework, laws and policies that hinder the LGBT community from accessing services. They also discussed access to justice, access to education, social empowerment, socio-cultural issues and hate crimes.

“It was open and fair enough to cover HIV related issues facing LGBT communities regionally and I strongly believe that all the ideas together will bring change in African countries” said TP Mothopeng from Lesotho’s Matrix Support Group. During the meeting activists also shared their experiences on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV/Aids, examined country specific context for LGBT and HIV issues, developed an advocacy agenda and strategy and then elected 10 people who will now represent the LGBT group at the next joint workshop which will take place in October where the three key groups will be represented.

Ian Swartz, OSISA programme coordinator for LGBTI special initiatives said in his opening remarks “The goal of the meeting is to build the capacity of the three key groups (LGBTI activists, women living with HIV, and sex workers) in 13 countries to develop a regional advocacy and lobbying strategy to address HIV and Aids.” For many years the HIV within LGBT sector has been led by gay men and it is only recently that the WSW were brought on board. As a result of these changes this meeting was totally different and the Trans community found they scored more nominations than the other identities to be on the working group.

In October 2010 UNIFEM [now UN Women] issued a call for proposals to work with three marginalized communities [namely sex workers, women living with HIV and LGBT communities] to develop regional advocacy strategies on HIV and Aids. The HIV and Aids programme, in partnership with the Women’s Rights programme and the Special Initiative on LGBT rights submitted a proposal and were awarded the contract.

October 25, 2011 – IGLHRC

NGOs Expose Grave Human Rights Violations Exposed in Malawi

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

(Geneva, October 25, 2011) — As the United Nations Human Rights Committee meets for its 103rd session, the Government of Malawi has refused to submit a written report on its human rights record. Despite its refusal, on October 25th, the Committee will review its record with a government delegation traveling from Malawi headed by the Attorney General. 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). Their report NGO Shadow Report on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights documents Malawi’s grave and deteriorating human rights situation.

According to the groups, the most serious rights violator in Malawi is President Bingu Wa Mutharika. His administration acknowledges, encourages and organises the intimidation and unlawful killing of individuals or groups that challenge the regime. He has incited his followers to take to the streets with arms, allowed the police to beat and kill members of the opposition, crushed media dissent, and broken up peaceful assemblies with deadly force. President Mutharika’s regime ignores the authority of the national courts system, incites prejudice and hatred of vulnerable minorities including lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and relegates women to the status of second-class citizens. Despite President Mutharika’s on-going attacks on members of civil society and on the media, human rights organizations in Malawi including CEDEP and CHRR continue to work towards exposing human rights violations committed by the State. The human rights activists heading CEDEP and CHRR have faced death threats because of their work.

The shadow report highlights human rights violations committed by the State of Malawi. For instance:
• 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.

Two journalists were arrested and spent several days in custody. Most journalists had their cameras confiscated, broken and their writing materials thrown away. One photo-journalist was hospitalised for seven days because of the serious head injuries he suffered as a result The NGO 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 to equalize rights for men and women, and the need to conduct immediate and impartial investigations into the July 2011 attacks on civilians and journalists that hold state violators accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

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.

State Reports
The ICCPR requires all state parties to submit periodic reports about the implementation of the treaty’s principles. Based on the state reports and information gathered by Committee experts, the Committee will develop a list of questions (List of Issues) regarding the status of civil and political rights in that country. State Parties often provide written response to those questions ahead of the official review session of the state’s compliance with the ICCPR.

Shadow Reports
The Committee accepts reports from civil society groups regarding the human rights situation in that country. These reports submitted by NGO are known as shadow reports.

Concluding Observations
Based on the State report, the State written answer to the List of Issues, the shadow reports, the State presentation to the Committee, and the interactive dialogue between State and Committee, the Committee concludes its review of the State’s compliance with its treaty obligations with a list of concerns and recommendations for the State in a Concluding Observations document. The State is expected to formally acknowledge which of the Committee recommendations and concerns it will abide by. The Committee recommendations and the State response are powerful tools for domestic advocates seeking to advance human rights and governmental accountability.

October 28, 2011 – IGLHRC

Lack of Cooperation with UN Raises Concerns About Human Rights in Malawi

Geneva – On October 25th, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded its review of Malawi in the absence of a State report. The Malawi state report on the implementation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), due in March 1995, is now 16 years overdue. "The Committee decided to trigger the special procedure of examination in absence of a report, which is usually used for States that refuse to comply with their reporting obligations," said Patrick Mutzenberg, Director of the Centre for Civil and Political Rights. Mutzenberg also revealed, "Among the 167 States that have ratified the Covenant, Malawi is one of the few States that never submitted its initial report on the measures taken to implement civil and political rights at the national level."

A Malawi Governmental delegation attended the UN Human Rights Committee’s three-hour review that took place in a closed session. No information from the review was provided although the main issues raised by the Committee were made public.Pursuant to the Committee’s practice, the recommendations known as Concluding Observations will be transmitted on 4th November 2011 but will remain confidential pending additional responses from the State Party. This lack of transparency was criticized 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) who submitted a report and briefed the Committee on the human rights situation in Malawi earlier this week.

During the NGO briefing, organizations referred to human rights violations against journalists, political opponents and vulnerable groups including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. "In this context of regression of human rights, NGOs regret that the Committee held its session in a closed meeting and decided to make its recommendations confidential. This will make it extremely difficult for civil society to follow-up their implementation, and it only encourages the State to not cooperate with the Committee," said Gift Trapence from the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP)."Without doubt, this process made clear that the Government of Malawi routinely violates the human rights of all Malawians and failed to meet its obligations under the ICCPR," said Jessica Stern, director of programs at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "The persecution of LGBT Malawians must then be seen in this light : they live in a state that not only fails to protect those most vulnerable but actively incites violence and discrimination."

Media Contacts:
Gift Trapence (CEDEP), Malawi
Jessica Stern (IGLHRC), United States
Patrick Mutzenberg (CCPR), Switzerland