The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation [CHRR] says it is deeply concerned with reports of police brutality in enforcing Covid-19 pandemic prevention measures.
CHRR says it has been informed that police officers were on Monday and Tuesday harassing drivers and beating up pedestrian not wearing face masks at market places, bus depots and on the streets under the guise of enforcing Covid-19 measures.
The organization says it fully understands the gravity of the current situation and the need for urgent responses to curb the spread of the Coronavirus and prevent further deaths, but using the police to violently enforce Covid-19 preventive measures will not be effective and will do more harm than good.
In the statement dated 13 January 2021, signed by its Executive Director, Michael Kaiyatsa, the CHRR says violence may deliver short–term compliance but it cannot be part of an effective strategy to contain the Coronavirus, apart from the clear ethical issues with abusing police power in this way.
The CHRR says the risk is that if these extreme policing measures are applied without due caution and consideration, they will eventually be resisted, saying the authorities need to get the public to comply and modify their behavior, whether police are watching or not, the public is not an enemy here.
The organization says the police should be the last line of defense against a virus, worried with using the police as a substitute for effective public health communication and awareness not only makes this work more difficult, but undermining it completely.
……..”We are reminding the authorities of their pledge to respect the rule of law and human rights principles in which our governance structure is rooted,’’…..reads the statement in part.
The CHRR says to ensure that Malawi complies with its eight  human rights obligations during this pandemic, the government should urgently lead efforts to end abuses by police forces.
The organization is urging the Ministry of Homeland Security to send clear, unambiguous message that human rights violations will not be tolerated and that all allegations of excessive use of police force will be promptly and impartially investigated and those responsible will be held to account.
By Vincent Gunde