Malawi human rights commissioner threatened

By Richard Lee | July 01st, 2011

Civil society organisations have responded with shock and outrage to the news that Malawi's Human Rights Commissioner, John Kapito, and his family are now living in fear following phone threats and incidents of harassment.

Kapito has been speaking out vehemently against the government’s lack of respect for the rule of law and good governance as well as the deteriorating human rights situation in Malawi under President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s administration. In response, senior government officials have been attempting to silence him by summoning him, publicly threatening to sack him and consistently accusing the Malawi Human Rights Commission of operating beyond its jurisdiction.

But Kapito has stood his ground and still continues to speak out on critical issues pertaining to the rule of law, human rights and democratic governance on behalf of many voiceless Malawians.

In recent months, many human rights defenders have been publicly exposed to an increasing risk of violence for giving advice to the Mutharika administration and fighting for minority rights. Senior government and DPP officials and even President Mutharika himself have attacked human rights defenders for their criticism of his administration's governance and human rights record, describing them as unpatriotic and unemployable, among other derogatory terms.

Memories are still fresh of the speech President Mutharika gave in March a rally held at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre, when he appealed to his party supporters to “discipline” his critics in what has widely been construed as an instigation of violence against political dissidents.

Following that speech, acts of violence targeting human rights defenders have escalated.

Now the focus of attention - and public attacks - has moved to John Kapito.

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