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UA 284/93 - Malawi: death penalty: Foster Azele Mlombwa

, Index number: AFR 36/032/1993

Foster Azele Mlombwa could face execution if his appeal to the Traditional Court of Appeal in Lilongwe fails on 25 August 1993. Foster Mlombwa, former Malawi Congress Party (MCP) chairman for Dedza district, was arrested on 10 December 1992 and charged with the murder of a police officer on 9 December. He was reportedly taken to the local police station where he was beaten with an iron bar until he lost consciousness. In April 1993 he was sentenced to death after an unfair trial by the Central Region Traditional Court. Malawi's "traditional courts" constitute a separate judicial system parallel to the ordinary courts. Legal representation is not permitted, and the independence of the judges is open to question.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AFR 36/32/93
Distr: UA/SC
UA 284/93 Death Penalty 20 August 1993
MALAWI: Foster Azele Mlombwa
Foster Azele Mlombwa, who was sentenced to death following an unfair trial
by the Central Region Traditional Court in April 1993, could face execution
if his appeal to the Traditional Court of Appeal in Lilongwe fails on 25 August
1993. Amnesty International has also received information that the appeals
of other death row prisoners are currently being heard. If their appeals are
unsuccessful they can seek clemency from the President, which is rarely granted.
Amnesty International's concern that Foster Azele Mlombwa and others may be
executed is intensified because there are reports that executions in Malawi
take place at specific times of the year, one of which may be September.
Although information on the use of the death penalty in Malawi is difficult
to obtain there are reportedly over 100 people currently under sentence of
death.
Foster Azele Mlombwa, former Malawi Congress Party (MCP) chairman for Dedza
district was arrested on 10 December 1992 and charged with the murder of a
police officer on 9 December 1992. He was reportedly taken to the local police
station where he was beaten with an iron bar until he lost consciousness. In
April 1993 he was sentenced to death by the Central Region Traditional Court.
He has recently been moved from Mikuyu Prison in Zomba, where his family had
access to him, to a prison in Lilongwe.
Malawi's "traditional courts" constitute a separate judicial system parallel
to the ordinary courts. These courts, which hear capital cases, respect none
of the essential guarantees of fair trial. The independence and impartiality
of the courts are open to question: the judges are unqualified traditional
leaders appointed by the President, are led by a qualified lawyer and have
no security of tenure. Procedural matters and rules of evidence are entirely
at the discretion of the court and defendants have no right of legal
representation. Those convicted in a "traditional court" may only appeal against
a sentence if the Minister of Justice agrees and such an appeal may only be
heard within the "traditional court" system, not by the Supreme Court. Legal
representation is also not permitted in the Court of Appeal. The failure of
"traditional courts" to conform to international standards for fair trial
ensures that none of those sentenced to death and executed in Malawi for the
past 20 years or more have received a fully fair trial.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation
of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment or punishment, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration
of Human rights.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail
letters either in English or in your own language:
- urging that the death sentence passed on Foster Azele Mlombwa and all other
outstanding sentences be commuted;
- stating that Amnesty International unconditionally opposes the death penalty
in all cases on the grounds that it is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment
and violates the right to life;
Page 2 of UA 284/93
- expressing concern at the unfairness of trials in "traditional courts" which fall
short of internationally recognized standards of fair trial;
- urging that the death penalty be abolished in Malawi and that in the meantime Malawi
should abide by the United Nations Economic and Social Council Resolution of May
1989 for the Implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the
rights of those facing the death penalty, which applies to all UN member states;
APPEALS TO
1) His Excellency Life-President Salutation: Your Excellency
Ngwazi Dr H Kamuzu Banda
Office of the President
Private Bag 301
Lilongwe 3, Malawi
Telegrams: Life-President Banda, Lilongwe, Malawi
Telexes: 44389 PRES MI, 44113 EXTERAL MI
Faxes: + 265 731878
2) Mr John Tembo Salutation: Dear Minister
Minister of State
Office of the President
Private Bag 301
Lilongwe 3, Malawi
Telegrams: Minister of State Tembo, Lilongwe, Malawi
Telexes: 44389 PRES MI, 44113 EXTERNAL MI
Faxes: + 265 731878
3) Mr Chimango Salutation: Dear Minister
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Private Bag 333
Lilongwe 3, Malawi
Telegrams: Minister of Justice Chimango, Lilongwe, Malawi
4) Mr Viliera Salutation: Dear Attorney General
Attorney General
Attorney General's Chambers
Ministry of Justice
Private Bag 333
Lilongwe 3, Malawi
Telegrams: Attorney General Viliera, Lilongwe, Malawi
Telexes: 44766 JUSTICE MI
COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO:
1) Mr Justice Richard Banda
Chief Justice
High Court of Malawi
Box 30244, Chichiri
Blantyre 3, Malawi
2) Mr Temwa Nyirenda
Chairman of the Law Society
Box 2420, Blantyre, Malawi
3) Newspaper:
Mr Ken Lipenge
The Daily Times
Private Bag 39
Blantyre, Malawi
and to diplomatic representatives of Malawi accredited to your country
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your
section office, if sending appeals after 1 October 1993.

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