Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The United Nations human rights office has urged the Malawian Government to set up a transparent investigation into allegations that its security forces committed grave rights violations when they clashed with protesters last week. At least 19 people are reported to have died during demonstrations last week in Malawi’s biggest cities, with protesters speaking out against shortages of fuel and foreign exchange and calling for greater freedoms and human rights. Security forces have been accused by the protesters of using excessive force.
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva that OHCHR is calling on the Government to stop the use of force and conduct a prompt, impartial and transparent inquiry into the allegations of human rights abuses. “We are extremely worried about reports of arrests of large numbers of people during the demonstrations, and death threats against several leaders of the protests following President Bingu wa Mutharika’s announcement via radio that eight people he specifically named would be arrested,” she said. “We urge the Government to cease the use of mass arrests and threats to silence opponents.”
Ms. Shamdasani also expressed concern at reports that the Malawian Government has shut down news websites and social media networks and blocked signals from local radio stations. “Journalists have also reportedly been targeted and subject to violence and intimidation. We urge the authorities to respect the freedom of expression.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)