Malawi
28.05.10
Urgent Interventions

Follow-up of case MWI 100310_Mr. Steve Monjeza and Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga sentenced to 14 years imprisonment

Case MWI 100310.1
Follow-up of case MWI 100310
Alleged ill-treatment/ Sentencing/ Arbitrary detention

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has received new information and requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Malawi.

New information

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by reliable sources, including Antenna International, a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network, that Mr. Steve Monjeza (26 years old) and Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga (20 years old), a couple from Blantyre who were arrested after their engagement ceremony in December 2009 and subsequently ill-treated, were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour by the Magistrate’s Court in Blantyre, on 20 May 2010. Two days before, both had been convicted for “unnatural offences” and “indecent practices between males” under Section 153 and 156 of the Malawi Penal Code. They intend to appeal the verdict.

It is reported that the Court allowed the couple to be subjected to humiliating treatment during the trial, including being mocked for their relationship by trial attendees and being forced to clean up vomit after one of them became ill.

According to the same information received, after the verdict, Mr. Steve Monjeza was transferred to Zomba prison, the second largest prison in Malawi, while Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga continues to be detained in Chichiri prison. Their conditions of detention are reported to be very poor (lack of adequate food, harassment by other detainees, etc.).

The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned about the situation of Mr. Steve Monjeza and Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga. OMCT calls on the competent authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them. Laws that criminalise individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation are contrary to international human rights standards.

OMCT further reiterates its call on the competent authorities of Malawi to carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of ill-treatment suffered by Mr. Steve Monjeza and Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga (see below), the result of which must be made public, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law.

In this respect, OMCT recalls to the authorities of Malawi that they are legally bound to effectively ensure the physical and psychological integrity of all persons deprived of liberty in accordance with regional and international human rights law, and in particular article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Background information

OMCT had earlier been informed about the arrest, on 27 December 2009, of Mr. Steve Monjeza and Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga in Chileka Township, in Blantyre, after their engagement ceremony. The day of their arrest, they were allegedly subjected to verbal abuses by the community and beaten by the police upon their arrival at the police station.

On 30 December 2009, they were charged of "unnatural practices between males and gross public indecency" and they were forced to appear on TV. On January 2010, both were forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation by a clinical officer at Zomba Mental Hospital to establish whether they were mentally well or not. Furthermore, Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga was subjected to a compulsory medical examination at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to verify if he was a man or a woman. The authorities also attempted to verify if there was any proof of penetration.

Mr. Steve Monjeza and Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga have been detained at Chichiri prison. They were both repeatedly denied bail.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Malawi urging them to:

  1. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Steve Monjeza and Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga;
  2. Release immediately and unconditionally Mr. Steve Monjeza and Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga since their detention is arbitrary;
  3. Carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the alleged ill-treatment suffered by Mr. Steve Monjeza and Mr. Tionge Chimbalanga, in accordance with international human rights standards, the result of which must be made public, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
  4. Ensure that an effective remedy, including the right to full redress with compensation, be granted to the victims concerned;
  5. Guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.

Addresses

  • The State President, Dr.Bingu wa Muntharika, Office of President and Cabinet, Fax +265 (1) 788 586
  • Minister of Justice, Professor Peter Muntharika, Fax: +265 1 788332/841, Email: justice@malawi.gov.mw
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Capital Hill, P.O. Box 30315 Lilongwe 3 Malawi, Fax. +265 1 788 482
  • Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture, Capital Hill, Private Bag 384 Lilongwe 3 Malawi, Fax: +265 1 788 764, Email: sportsministry@malawi.gov.mw

Please also write to the embassies of Malawi in your respective country.

Geneva, 28 May 2010

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts