A study into operations of the Malawi Police Services has revealed that at least 28 people were victim of police extra-judicial killings.
A report titled “Operation Elimination: an investigation into Police Extra-judicial Killings in Malawi”, highlights damning allegations of police brutality targeting suspects and released hardcore criminals.
Meanwhile, key stakeholders including the Police and the Office of the Ombudsman are yet to comment on the damning report.
The report says information of the targeted extra-judicial killings were first heard of in August 2018 after former prisoners said the Malawi Police Service were extrajudicially executing former prisoners, on their release from prison, particularly those who have served a sentence of armed robbery.
“Initial information received by the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) suggests the police had executed at least 43 former prisoners. The authorities reportedly failed to conduct investigations/ inquests in accordance with the requirements of the Inquest Act and the United Nations Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, 1989 (particularly principles 9 to 17),” reads part of the report.
The report hints the alleged extra-judicial are shrouded in so much secret so much so that even families are frequently unaware of the fate of their loved ones.
The report relies on purported evidence of the police killings has emerged from a number of sources including a prisoner released from jail on murder charges, who narrowly escaped being killed and another who was shot by the police but survived, receiving 4 bullets to the stomach
and two to the leg.
The police are alleged to have killed 6 persons on 20 July 2018 in Njamba Park, Blantyre, says the report.
Furthermore, a police officer, who has been in service for over 12 years, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that police are killing armed robbers, confirming where such executions are being conducted in Blantyre.
He reportedly confided in the researchers that the victims are arrested, handcuffed and taken in a police vehicle at night.
“Once the police reach the place of execution, they take the victims out of the vehicle and whilst still handcuffed they tell them to run and start shooting at them until they kill them,” the report attributes to the unnamed police officer.
The unnamed officer further claimed that many dangerous criminals were shot in such a manner in the year 2017.
He attributed the alleged decrease of cases of armed robbery in Malawi to the so-called ‘elimination’ operation.
According to the report, the police source recalled how the courts acquit armed robbers because
the courts feel there is insufficient evidence, which was apparently cited as an alleged justification for the police extrajudicial killings.
The report also weaves into the media narrative, highlighting a report published in The Nation newspaper quoting a mortuary attendant at Queen Elizabeth Hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to the article, some 4 suspects that were killed in Blantyre were brought to the mortuary with bullets riddled bodies.
“The bodies will be brought with explanations that range from ‘there was a gun fire exchange with armed robbers’ or ‘the suspects were trying to escape’,” reads part of the report.
The article also reports that in February 2016, the police killed Thomson Chigoneka in Lilongwe, and in August 2016, 3 others were killed by the police in Lilongwe in what was alleged by the police to be a shootout and one further person
In November 2016, the police reportedly killed Kapisi Tembo, John Ntaja, Ephraim Mkandawire and one unidentified individual in Blantyre, who were suspected of planning a robbery.
In October 2017, Harry Joseph and George Chanza were reportedly killed by the police in Area 25 in Lilongwe when they were ambushed at their suspected hideout.
In September 2017, two unidentified suspects were gunned down in Lilongwe in what the authorities alleged was an exchange of fire.
According to the study, out of the 43 names that were provided only 22 were identified and 19 were confirmed dead.
The other 21 remain unidentified.
During the study, 26 more cases were identified and only 12 were investigated.
The study found that 28 alleged victims were confirmed to have been shot by the police and died in very suspicious circumstances, 3 of which were alleged to have died in a road accident but they also had gunshot wounds.
One alleged victim was found alive.
The study team, however, failed to investigate 14 of the new case that were identified during the study due to limitation of resources.