Malawi’s Human Rights Commission has accused the country’s police officers of perpetrating grave human rights abuses.
The commission said in a damning report published Wednesday that Malawian police officers raped and sexually assaulted women – some in the presence of their children – during a security crackdown in October.
Investigations by the commission disclosed disturbing instances where girls below the age of 18 were sexually assaulted. Some women were also said to have been raped.
“Some of the survivors were raped right in the presence of their children some of whom are able to recount the incident,” the report said, according to the BBC.
“Some of the women who were left behind in the village as others fled, or arrived in the villages after the others had fled, were met with police officers who violently beat them, raped and indecently assaulted them,” the report added.
The incident which happened in Malawian town of Msundwe, 22 miles west of the capital, Lilongwe according to reports,was in retaliation to the villagers’ opposition to a rally being held by President Mutharika.
The human rights abuses occurred as the police were trying to clear unauthorized checkpoints mounted by the villagers, firing tear gas which forced most people, especially men to flee.
Right group Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) observed that some police officers took advantage of the chaos to sexually assault women in and around Msundwe on the following day.
“Police went to these places on duty because they were in uniform and they used a police car,” NGO-GCN head Barbara Banda told AFP, adding that the officers “threw teargas in every direction”.
“In one instance, the parents of one of the victims was asked to go into another room and the girl was raped.”
On Thursday Malawi police announced the launch of an inquiry into the allegations that its officers raped and battered women sexually during the standoff in which one policeman was said to have been stoned to death.
“Different professionals… will investigate the matter in a transparent and independent manner,” said police spokesman James Kadadzera in a statement.
“All suspects identified will be treated according to the laws of the land without favor.”
Organizers of the protest, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) called for the allegations to be investigated.
“It is shocking that we have the police, who are supposed to protect people, abusing and victimizing women,” said HRDC official Gift Trapence.