Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda has asked the Independent Complaints Commission (ICC) to ensure that police officers implicated in the Msundwe rape case are prosecuted as soon as possible.
The High Court on August 13 last year ordered that 18 women of Msundwe should be compensated for the abuse they suffered at the hands of law enforcers and that the implicated officers should be arrested.
But in a statement issued on Monday, Ministry of Homeland Security Senior Deputy Principal Secretary Patricia Liabuba said the ministry was awaiting the a ruling of assessment of damages by the Registrar of the High Court which will determine how much money the women should receive as compensation.
She said the ministry has also instructed police not to appeal against the court order for the law enforcement agency to compensate the rape victims, adding it will ensure that the 18 are compensated after the court has finalised assessing damages.
Reads the statement in part: “The ministry would want to see all the women compensated as ordered by the court.
“The minister has requested the Independent Police Complaints Commission to take up the matter and that it should ensure suspected police officers are prosecuted as soon as possible.”
When contacted yesterday, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera declined to comment on the status of investigations and arrests of the 17 suspected officers, saying Ministry of Homeland Security spokesperson Andrew Nyondo was better-placed to speak on the matter.
In a separate interview, Nyondo confirmed that the arrests were not yet made; hence, the ministry’s involvement of the ICC to look into the matter.
ICC commissioner Christopher Tukula confirmed receiving requests from the ministry, Women Lawyers Association (WLA) and other institutions on the matter, but said they are waiting to have a fully-fledged investigations department that can work on that and related matters.
He said: “We are looking at a systematic way of taking it over. In that sense, the urgency will depend on how quickly we constitute the commission’s investigations department.
“We have material to start from because other bodies did initial work. So, when the investigation department is fully constituted, their first assignment will be the Msundwe case. It is big priority on our agenda.”
Tukula also confirmed that the police handed over the files on the case to the commission.
Yesterday, WLA president Immaculate Maluza said that they intend to pursue the matter to its logical conclusion, but commended government for committing to ensuring that the women are compensated.
She also said the police have submitted to court the Occurrence Book, which is a record of events kept at a police station drawn from the diaries of police officers. In this case, it is supposed to contain names of all officers that went to Msundwe on the day of the alleged crime.
Said Maluza: “The matter appeared before the Registrar for an assessment of damages, this ruling is yet to be pronounced. The occurrence book was submitted to the court by the police and WLA is following up on this aspect using appropriate processes in order to ensure that those involved in the case are held accountable.
“WLA has clear instructions and will continue to represent the women so that no other woman suffers such indignity and abuse from public officials that are entrusted with safety and security in the country.”
In an interview yesterday, Human Rights Defenders Coalition chairperson Gift Trapence asked police to speed up prosecution of the officers, saying the case is long overdue.
He said: “Justice delayed is justice denied. They need to speed up the process. We are happy that the ministry has made a commitment but there is need to speed up the matter. We can only see the real commitment if the matter is concluded.”
The case followed the conduct of about 17 police officers who allegedly raped 18 women during an operation on October 8 2019 at M’bwatalika, Mpingu and Msundwe in the outskirts of Lilongwe City.
It came after the death of a fellow police officer, Usumani Imedi, who was stoned by angry people in Msundwe Township as they protested against former president Peter Mutharika’s planned political rally in the area.
Additional reporting by GEORGE SINGINI, Staff Reporter