16 killed in mob justice attacks in 3 months - Malawi police

2016-04-06 15:13

Blantyre - Statistics from the Malawi Police Service show that at least 16 people have been killed in mob justice attacks in the past three months.

Spokesperson for the police in southern Malawi, James Kadadzera, condemned what he described as "barbaric acts that defeat execution of justice". 

"Lynching of crime suspects is not only barbaric, but also smacks of a life in the jungle. We in the police service will bust such barbarism and this is why mob justice perpetrators will face arrests," he said.

Frustrated by failure of the police to crackdown on some serious crimes and courtesy of slow justice delivery, some Malawians take the law in their own hands and mete out mob justice. 

Suspects of serious crimes such as robbery and albino killings are usually beaten to a pulp before they are burnt alive or cudgeled to death.

Meanwhile, the United Nations human rights office has expressed concern over the increased number of mob attacks in Malawi since the beginning of the year.

The office urged government agencies to strengthen the rule of law in order to combat such violence.

"Over the past two months, at least nine separate incidents were reported across the country, in which 16 people were killed," Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told the regular bi-weekly press briefing in Geneva.

She cited a recent incident where a mob stormed a police station and took a man accused of murder out of his cell and killed him. Another mob burnt to death seven people suspected of trafficking human bones last month.

'Address the root causes'

In another incident, a mob beat to death four members of a family after accusing them of using witchcraft to kill a 17-year-old woman by lightning. 

The UN called for speedy prosecutions of those engaging in mob justice.

"We also urge the authorities to address the root causes of these attacks and to launch an awareness campaign to encourage people to report crimes to the police, rather than to take justice into their own hands," said Pouilly.

The call comes after Malawian President Peter Mutharika also condemned mob justice.

"Crime suspects must be surrendered to police, so that police should investigate the alleged offense and prosecute them in a competent court of law. It is the court which is mandated to give punishment to suspects once found guilty," he said in a special address to Malawians last week.

Mutharika added: "You cannot be a complainant, who is investigating your own case, and presiding over the case of your own, and implement your judgment."

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