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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Press Statement on the human rights situation in the Republic of Malawi


The Country Rapporteur on the promotion of human rights in the Republic of Malawi, Honourable Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor, on behalf of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), is closely monitoring the human rights situation in the country, and is particularly concerned about the human rights issues relating to the electoral process and the role of the Judiciary in Malawi.

The Commission recalls the decision of the High Court of Malawi that annulled for serious irregularities the election held on 21 May 2019 and called for the convening of fresh presidential election and the acceptance by all involved in the election process, particularly by the Government of Malawi of the decision of the High Court.

The Commission notes that as a follow up to this decision, Malawi is scheduled to have the fresh election that the High Court mandated on 23 June 2020.

The Commission learns with concern that actions have been taken by Government ordering the Chief Justice and another judge of Appeal to take leave pending their retirement only two weeks before the convening of the new election. As the protest that members of the Judiciary staged has demonstrated, there is concern that this action undermines the independence of the Judiciary which is guaranteed under the Constitution of Malawi and Article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights ( the African Charter).

The Commission welcomes the decision of the High Court of Malawi that granted injunction against the order on the retirement of the two members of the Judiciary after receiving an appeal lodged against the instruction for their retirement. The Commission urges the Government of Malawi to honor the judgement of the High Court and rescind the instruction of retirement.

The Commission considers that the timing of the action and the apparent sense of attack on the part of the Judiciary can have adverse consequences on the credibility of the election particularly if this is to lead to changing the judicial officers who are responsible for settling disputes arising from the election.  

In order to ensure that the irregularities that marred the last election and created uncertainties and contestations in Malawi are not repeated, the Commission urges that the Government of Malawi ensures that the election is free, fair, credible and transparent and the conduct of the elections complies with the Constitution of Malawi and the standards laid down in the African Charter, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

Banjul, 22 June 2020