Head of state and government Bingu wa Mutharika
Death penalty abolitionist in practice
Population 15.3 million
Life expectancy 52.4 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 125/117 per 1,000
Adult literacy 71.8 per cent
Prisons remained overcrowded and without adequate facilities. Two gay men were ill-treated by police and detained after publicly celebrating their engagement.
The Democratic Progressive Party led by President wa Mutharika won presidential and parliamentary elections on 19 May amid allegations that police had disrupted opposition party meetings and that state media coverage was biased.
Prisons were overcrowded, most holding more than twice their capacity. In December, for example, Maula Prison (Central region), built for 700 prisoners, housed about 2,200; Zomba Prison (South region), built for 900 inmates, housed 2,176; Chichiri Prison in Blantyre, built for 700 prisoners, housed 1,800; and Mzuzu Prison (Northern region), built for 200 inmates, housed 412. The overcrowding resulted in the spread of contagious diseases, including tuberculosis and scabies.
Female juvenile offenders were held with adult inmates; there are no separate facilities for such prisoners.
Trials of opposition politicians
- The trial continued of former President Bakili Muluzi accused of involvement in a 2008 coup plot. He faced charges of treason and corruption. On 7 December, the High Court dropped 50 of the 60 charges against him. The trial was delayed to allow him to travel abroad for medical treatment. Several other politicians opposed to President wa Mutharika arrested at the same time and released on bail alleged they were being politically persecuted.
- There was no progress in the trial of former Vice- President Dr Cassim Chilumpha, arrested in April 2006 on suspicion of treason. He remained free on bail.
On 2 December, the National Assembly passed the Police Bill amid protests from human rights groups and opposition parties that it would give police excessive powers, including the power to search without a warrant. The police have a long record of carrying out unlawful searches as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions of government critics, including opposition politicians and journalists. The President had not signed the Police Bill into law by the end of the year.
Discrimination – abuse and detention of gay men
- Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were arrested on 28 December, two days after they had a traditional engagement ceremony (chinkhoswe) in Blantyre’s Chirimba township. They were charged with "unnatural offences" and "indecent practices between males" under sections 153 and 156 of the Penal Code. If convicted, they face up to 14 years in prison with hard labour. The two men were assaulted in police custody. Both were subject to forcible psychological assessment. Tiwonge Chimbalanga was also forced to undergo an anal examination in hospital to establish whether or not he had had sexual relations with men. Forced anal examination constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.