Civicus, a global alliance of civil society organisations, has raised concerns over the Peter Mutharika administration’s efforts to silence activists.
The alliance expressed the concern in a statement on Thursday flowing the arrests of three human rights defenders accused of mobilising Malawians to shut down state residences.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition chairperson Timothy Mtambo, vice chairperson Gift Trapence and member MacDonald Sembereka were arrested earlier this week before being released on Thursday.
In its statement, the alliance said the arrests of the three human rights defenders is part of ongoing efforts by the Malawian authorities to silence human rights defenders and erode civil freedoms.
CIVICUS Communications Officer, Campaigns & Advocacy Nina Teggarty noted that over the last ten months civil society groups and members of the political opposition have been holding peaceful protests calling for democratic reforms but the authorities have responded with violence and death threats against human rights defenders.
She gave the example of incidents that happened last year when the home and car of human rights defender Mtambo were petrol bombed and he was threatened with death by a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“Another human rights defender and coordinator of the HRDC, Moir Walita Mkandawire, was physically assaulted and hospitalized for injuries sustained in his eyes,” she said.
Centre for Human rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Programmes Manager Michael Kaiyatsa also said that the authorities have often used violence to target peaceful assemblies and arresting human rights defenders,
“The recent arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders follow vile threats made by senior members of the DPP party,” said Kaiyatsa.
CIVICUS and CHRR have since asked the Mutharika government to stop intimidating representatives of civil society and respect the rights of all Malawians to protest peacefully and raise concerns over issues affecting them.
Civicus has nearly 9000 members worldwide works to strengthen civil society for a more just, inclusive and sustainable world. The alliance works to protect the fundamental civic freedoms that allow us to speak out, organise and take action.