The Women Lawyers Association (WLA) and Malawi Police Service have launched a joint fresh investigation into the alleged rape of women at Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu trading centres on the outskirts of Lilongwe City in October 2019.
WLA spokesperson Atupele Masanjala and Inspector General (IG) of Police George Kainja confirmed the development in separate interviews yesterday.
They said the fresh investigation follows an inconclusive police probe that failed to identify the culprits, among other gaps.
In a telephone interview, Masanjala said the association met the IG last week and agreed to have the joint investigation to fill the yawning gaps.
She said: “The first investigation did not yield any results so as duty bearers we want to hold them [police] accountable.
“Our [women lawyers’] role in the investigations will be to closely watch them on progress. We are giving them the benefit of the doubt. So, our plan is to keep following up on progress.”
In January last year, police deployed what they called “top notch” investigators to investigate the rape and sexual assault cases allegedly perpetrated by its officers in the line of duty.
The police probe followed a Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) inves ti g a t ion which established that police officers deployed to the areas committed the offences.
Masanjala yesterday said to ensure transparency in the fresh investigations, investigators in the first probe will not be involved.
She said investigators in the fresh probe will treat each victim in isolation and not in groups as was the case previously.
“It will be more like the victims approached police themselves and in turn, police will have to treat the victims independently Masanjala said.
In a separate telephone interview, Kainja said the investigations are expected to start this week and that MHRC will also be part of the probe.
He said: “They are not fresh investigations per se. What we would like to do is fill in some of the gaps in the previous investigations.
“For example, in the previous investigations, there was failure to identify the suspected officers so we would like to have such gaps filled.”
The IG said they have decided to do the joint investigation to restore public trust in the police.
On January 27 2020, the WLA filed an application for judicial review at the High Court of Malawi Lilongwe Registry. They also demanded compensation for the women.
In its application, the association accused the then IG, Duncan Mwapasa, Clerk of Parliament and Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development of allegedly failing to protect the citizens, in particular, the women.
On August 13 2020, High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda ruled in favour of the association by granting them permission for judicial review and compensation for the women.
In his ruling, the judge also ordered police to investigate the matter further and furnish the court with its findings.
MHRC investigations established that police raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually assaulted three under-18 girls in an October 8 operation in the three areas. The women were fleeing from violent scenes.