EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AFR 36/32/93
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
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.