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Malawi: New information re ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders
Further to the Front Line Urgent Appeal dated 11 March 2011, Front Line has received the following new information in relation to the ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders in Malawi.
On 20 March 2011, human rights defender Mr Undule Mwakasungula, Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), was subjected to death threats via telephone calls from unknown individuals.
It is reported that in the first telephone call, Mr Mwakasungula was accused of tarnishing the government's image and undermining the good work of the President, and warned that the party and government would "deal with" him at any cost. In the second telephone call, Mr Mwakasungula's interlocutor warned him that he would be "slaughtered" if he is not careful, and accused of carrying out his work with the objective of influencing the Presidential elections.
The threatening phone calls accompanied comments made the same day by the President of Malawi, Mr Bingu wa Mutharika, in which he stated that he was waiting for NGOs to explain their "agenda" following presentation of a statement and petition to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in Geneva, Switzerland, on 16 March 2011 by representatives of the CHRR and Centre for Development of People (CEDEP). The President is quoted as stating "there is a group of 15 people roaming in Europe saying that there is violation of human rights because we don-t allow university professors to teach revolution ... We are waiting for them to come back and to tell us what their agenda is".
Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Mr Undule Mwakasungula, as well as members of the CHRR and CEDEP. Front Line reiterates its call for the Malawian authorities to guarantee that human rights defenders in Malawi are able to carry out their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities - including through communication with international human rights organisms - without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.