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UA 136/92 - Malawi: legal concern: Mervyn Mapenda, George Thaka, two Roman Catholic priests, Reverend Msowoya

, Index number: AFR 36/014/1992

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index:AFR 36/14/92
Distr: UA/SC
Please bring this action to the attention of the person in your section responsible
for outreach work as it is felt that appeals from church organizations may be
particularly effective.
UA 136/92 Legal concern 30 April 1992
MALAWI: Mervyn MAPENDA - architect
George THAKA - telecommunications employee
Two Roman Catholic priests
Reverend MSOWOYA - presbyterian church minister
Amnesty International has received reports of the arrest in late April 1992 of the
people listed above, because of their suspected support for political reform in Malawi.
Their present whereabouts are not known. It is likely that they are being held without
charge and there are fears that they may be ill-treated.
Mervyn Mapenda, an architect from Blantyre, was arrested on 21 April 1992 because
he is alleged to have expressed support for a multi-party political system. George
Thaka, who works for a telecommunications company, was arrested at about the same
time and probably for similar reasons.
Two Roman Catholic priests from Mzuzu in northern Malawi, whose names are not known
to Amnesty International, are also reported to have been arrested recently. This
appears to be a reprisal for the pastoral letter issued by the country's Roman Catholic
bishops on 8 March 1992, criticizing various aspects of the government's human rights
record. (See UA 90/92, AFR 36/06/92, 16 March 1992). Reverend Msowoya, a minister
in the Church of Central Africa (Presbyterian) (CCAP), who is also from northern
Malawi, is believed to have been arrested because of the support his church has given
to the Roman Catholic bishops.
Malawi is a one-party state, ruled by the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) which is headed
by Life-President Dr H. Kamuzu Banda. No independent political activity or freedom
of expression is permitted and detention without trial of government opponents is
routine and widespread. The Roman Catholic bishops' pastoral letter was the first
public expression of dissent within Malawi since 1964 and has proved to be a catalyst
for other criticism of the government, notably from university students. The bishops
themselves were interrogated about their letter, which was then declared seditious,
and there were public calls for their execution from senior party figures. On 18
April 1992, two Irish Roman Catholic priests were expelled from Malawi, one of them
Monsignor John Roche, who was a signatory to the pastoral letter. At about the same
time, a South African minister in the CCAP, Reverend Ryk van Veerden, was also expelled
from the country.
On 6 April 1992, Chakufwa Chihana, a trade union official who had publicly supported
the Roman Catholic bishops and called for an end to the MCP's monopoly of power,
was arrested at the airport in Lilongwe as he returned from attending meetings in
Zambia (see UA 114/92, AFR 36/09/92, 6 April 1992 and most recent follow-up AFR
36/13/92, 30 April 1992). On 28 April 1992 the government closed Chancellor College,
which is part of the University of Malawi, after student protests. The college had
only just reopened. It had been closed in mid-March after student demonstrations
in support of the bishops. Amnesty International is concerned about reports that
students arrested after the earlier protests were tortured.
page 2 of UA 136/92...
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail
- requesting information about the whereabouts and legal basis for the detention
of Mervyn Mapenda and the other people listed above;
- seeking assurances that they are physically safe and have access to visits from
their families and lawyers of their choice;
- calling for them to be immediately released if they are not to be charged with
a recognizably criminal offence and brought promptly and fairly to trial.
1) H E The Life-President Ngwazi Dr H. Kamuzu Banda
Office of the President and Cabinet Your Excellency
P/Bag 301
Lilongwe 3
Telegrams: Life-President Banda Lilongwe, Malawi
Telexes: 4389 PRES MI
Faxes: + 265 731878
2) Hon. J Z U Tembo
Minister of State in the Office of the President Dear Minister
P/Bag 301
Lilongwe 3
Telegrams: Minister of State Tembo, Lilongwe, Malawi
3) Mr MacWilliam Lunguzi
Inspector-General of Police Dear Sir
P/Bag 305
Lilongwe 3
Telegrams: Inspector-General of Police Lunguzi, Lilongwe, Malawi
Most Reverend James Chiona
Archbishop of Blantyre
PO Box 385
The Editor
PO Box 133
The General Secretary
Church of Central Africa (Presbyterian)
Livingstonia Synod
PO Box 112
and to diplomatic representatives of Malawi in your country
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your
section office, if sending appeals after 11 June 1992.

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