[JURIST] UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang [official profile] on Thursday urged [press release] the government of Malawi to improve its human rights conditions and promote accountability in the country. In particular, Kang expressed concern about the overcrowding of prisons and slow process of justice in the country. Kang also urged the government to initiate prosecution of those responsible for the killing of 20 protesters [BBC report] by government security forces last year. She encouraged the government to address the concerns that led to the violent protests last year, including better access to food, education, and healthcare. Kang noted that Malawi has made significant progress in its human rights record in recent years, including the repeal of restrictive press laws and a progressive constitution. Kang encouraged the government to continue its focus on human rights:
Malawi has a very progressive constitution with strong human rights provisions, and a good set of laws and institutions in place to promote and protect human rights. It is now time to strengthen a culture of human rights and the rule of law in Government institutions and in the individuals responsible for the protection, promotion and fulfillment of the full range of human rights for the people of Malawi. … Great challenges lie ahead in advancing the realisation of all human rights—economic, social, civil and political—for all the people of Malawi. But I have seen the political will at the highest levels of Government to face these challenges with courage and vision.
Kang called on the international community to provide assistance to Malawi when possible and ensured the Malawian government of the continued support of the UN.
Malawi President Joyce Banda last month announced in her first national address that she will decriminalize homosexual acts [JURIST report] in the country. The provisions she intends to repeal are Section 153 and 156 [ILGA backgrounder, PDF] of the Penal Code, which provide 14 years or 5 years imprisonment, respectively, for anyone engaging in male homosexual activity or relationships. Lesbianism is not criminalized in Malawi. In January 2011 Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika signed into law [JURIST report] a bill permitting the government to ban media outlets that its information ministry declared to be contrary to public interest. In November 2010, the Malawian government threatened the publishers of the Malawi Daily Times [official website], Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL), with a ban on advertising sales after one of their five publications ran stories covering sex scandals involving national celebrities and socialites.