CFNHRI Statement on Malawi

The Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI) has expressed concern about the recent arrest of Mr John Kapito, the Chairperson of the Malawi Human Rights Commission.

The arrest of Mr Kapito on Saturday – on charges of possessing seditious materials and holding foreign currency without proper documentation – is the latest in a series of incidents that appear to point to a deteriorating human rights climate in Malawi. Mr Kapito has in recent months identified shortcomings in the Government of Malawi’s protection of other human rights defenders from threats, intimidation and violence.

Mr Kapito, who has since been released on bail, was due to travel to Geneva this week for meetings of the CFNHRI and the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions.

This latest incident follows the arrest of lawyer and human rights activist Mr Ralph Kasambara, who was detained late last month despite being granted bail. Other lawyers and human rights defenders have reportedly been the victims of attacks and threats.

The CFNHRI echoes calls from the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), a member of the Forum, for the Government of Malawi to protect human rights defenders from all such attacks. The Forum calls on the Government of Malawi to acknowledge the essential role of human rights defenders as recognised by the 2010 UN Human Rights Council resolution on human rights defenders – including by promoting a safe environment where human rights defenders can perform their important work, and by promptly and effectively investigating any alleged attacks against them.

The CFNHRI is an informal and inclusive body of over 30 National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, and other national accountability mechanisms with a human rights mandate, from all regions of the Commonwealth. The Forum calls on the Government of Malawi to take concrete steps towards the better protection of human rights defenders in the country.

For further information, please contact Michael Edwards at the Australian Human Rights Commission: michael.edwards@humanrights.gov.au.   

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